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by Nadia Uddin

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2022
ISBN: 979-8986172002`
Publisher: Apperception Press

In Uddin’s debut SF novel, set in a near-future America, estranged siblings reunite upon discovering that their late mother’s brain has been kept functioning as part of a transhumanism experiment.

In 2030, many jobs in the United States have been taken over by artificial intelligence. Many AI breakthroughs have arisen from the innovations of genius Jay Edison, who’s a divisive figure for siblings Aisha and Sam Malik. Aisha’s public relations position at a massive food corporation (which has had mass layoffs thanks to robotics) places her in the orbit of Edison’s lab. Its “Brain Reinvigoration Project” can keep a brain temporarily functioning after death, providing an imperfect software simulation of the owner’s original personality. This has been done, with Aisha’s permission, with her and Sam’s mother, Maura, an American woman who married a Muslim man from India. Maura’s problematic parenting strongly affected Aisha and long tormented Sam, the latter of whom is now unfocused and drawn to questionable social causes, such as those of Zain, a Chicago drug kingpin who styles himself a neighborhood defender, and the Neo-Luddites, anti–AI agitators strongly influenced by the Unabomber manifesto. Aisha is smarting from her impending divorce from her wife, but she wants Sam to alleviate his own psychic pain by confronting Maura’s brain and meeting Edison in person. However, Sam knows that Maura has long guarded a family secret that would deeply injure Aisha. Despite future-shock trimmings and occasional action thriller elements, Uddin’s novel is never formulaic, focusing mainly on emotions and how relationships are affected by technology. Characters are complicated in intriguing ways; the Ray Kurzweil–like Edison—a cheery, wizened genius who beholds Zain’s empire with Panglossian, optimistic delight—is perhaps the most straightforward figure. A final character-related twist even excuses the story’s potential shortcomings. Other laudable touches are its pleasant avoidance of modern-day topics that other SF writers have pounded into the ground and a plethora of obscure pop-culture references, including a paean to the neglected 1984 film TheIce Pirates.

A promising speculative debut that doesn’t feel as if it rolled off the usual robotics assembly line.