AFTER ON by Rob Reid


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A team of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs must come up with a plan to save the world after their dating app spontaneously becomes sentient.

Reid (Year Zero, 2012) takes a deep dive into territory normally owned by writers like Neal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow with this ambitious and often funny take on the emergence of a singularity event—better known to laymen as true artificial intelligence. The book opens with an unknown, potentially unreliable narrator describing the inner life of Mitchell Prentice, a Silicon Valley CEO who has drawn his childhood friends into a minor-league startup called The absurd naming of startups is just one of many darkly funny things that Reid—who had a hand in founding Rhapsody—gets dead right about Silicon Valley. Mitchell suffers from a strange emotional disorder, Falkenberg’s disease, that allows the author to peruse the nature of human relations as well. Things start to get weird when Mitchell’s team is seconded to a vastly influential and well-funded social networking company called Phluttr. When Mitchell’s team’s new creation, an “UberX of Sex,” is folded into Phluttr, it should come as no surprise to the reader when Phluttr suddenly achieves consciousness. What does come as a surprise is that the world’s first super AI has the temperament of a moody 15-year-old whose first important realization is, “HOLY MOTHERFUCKING SHIT THESE GODDAMNED LUNATICS ARE GOING TO TRY TO KILL ME!!!!!” Yet what could have been played very hard for laughs is played relatively straight as Reid peppers his believable and frightening scenario with espionage tradecraft, corporate assassinations, a massive conspiracy theory, a potential nuclear confrontation with China and Blade Runner–ish musings on the nature of machine consciousness. The book’s final third is a pensive race to outwit Phluttr that reads like a philosophy major’s attempt at convincing the supercomputer in War Games that the only way to win is not to play.

An epic cyberthriller peppered with pop-culture references, metadata, and Silicon Valley in-jokes.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5247-9805-5
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2017


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