An unusually rosy, if rather talky, take on the relationship between humans and robots.

PEOPLE OF METAL

In this sci-fi tale, the destiny of mankind is drastically altered after new technology allows the copying of human minds into robotic chassis—and ultimately, the resulting beings must save the last Homo sapiens.

Snyder’s debut saga opens in 2014 with Graham Gordon, a Canadian youth, reading a Popular Science article about new advances in interfacing animal brains with computers. Later, the adult Graham does robotic research as scientists in a ruthlessly ambitious China and in a corporate-corrupted United States race to develop artificial, humanoid soldiers. He figures out how to copy human minds (with all their useful job skills, experiences, and interpersonal nuance) into software, but instead of creating marching automaton armies, a Sino-American cooperative effort mass-manufactures a nicer breed of robots with the ability to think. These durable, tireless, guileless “Machines” go on to replace the human labor force entirely. However, “Malaise,” a fatal torpor typified by suicide and addiction, levels humanity. The ultrasensible Machines have personalities, opinions, and quirks—all cut and pasted from real people—but they lack the incentive for evil. So, as mankind languishes on the edge of extinction, Machines conclude that it’s only fair to rescue their inventors. Leading the effort is Keisha, a Machine copied from long-dead novelist Amelia Dixon; Bill Weinberg, copied from Dixon’s money-manager husband; and other roboticized VIPs from an earlier era. The style of this seven century–spanning chronicle of robotic evolution (and human devolution), told largely in anecdotal fashion, sometimes verges on reportage. At times, it recalls Isaac Asimov’s iconic, linked short story cycle I, Robot (1950), although nobody mentions “positronic brains” here. Snyder’s story indulges in the utopian speculation of early sci-fi works, as the wise, verbose Machines implement programs for restoring “biological” civilization to its glory, while also sidestepping its socio-economic pitfalls and pathologies. This optimistic novel does lack the slam-bang robot action of a Terminator movie, but the Machines make charming company as they engage in lengthy discussions about how and why biological culture went buggy—and about ways to put it right.    

An unusually rosy, if rather talky, take on the relationship between humans and robots.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-153-6

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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