A science-fiction tale dealing with artificial intelligence attempts to cross itself with a political thriller dealing with state-sponsored torture.
In the year 2025, young scientist Luper Beauchamps has just secured a dream job with Silicon Valley powerhouse Wes Lane Inc. testing cutting-edge biological computers known as â€œneurospheres.” The problem-solving skills and scientific acumen of Luper and his team soon result in dramatic improvements to the neurospheres, much to the delight of their ambitious boss, Quade Barras. However, their success also creates difficulties–as the biological computers grow smarter, they inch closer to achieving a state of true, humanlike self-awareness, thereby making them subject to a complicated web of rules and regulations designed to ensure the ethical treatment of A.I. entities. Computer ethics expert Broc Fulton guides Luper and his colleagues through this ethical minefield, and their conversations constitute an occasionally thought-provoking foray into a conversation begun by Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and continued by many science-fiction writers since. Unfortunately, Rydon chose to bury this subplot under a plodding, poorly executed political thriller. In that plot, Luper and his friends increasingly suspect a connection between their ethically challenged boss Quade, the experimental new neurospheres and the military base and â€œCentral Asian Embassy” adjacent to the facilities of Wes Lane. This storyline fails to thrill for several reasons: the novel is slowed to a crawl by dull descriptions of Luper’s laboratory work; the characters are one-dimensional; the wooden dialogue makes the characters all sound like one another; and the protagonists are prone to volunteering anomalous anti-American remarks, such as Luper’s comment, â€œI’m glad I’m not Americanâ€¦I’d hate to be born so stupid.” The attempts to describe how mankind will grapple with the ethics of emerging artificial intelligence are this novel’s strongest moments.
Periodically intriguing but ultimately frustrating science fiction.