the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘aritificial intelligence

Singularity Sky, by Charles Stross

published in 2003

where I got it: borrowed

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I used to read a ton of Charles Stross, I couldn’t get enough of the guy.  Over a few years I managed to burn myself out, and recently I’ve really gotten back into him with his Laundry series.  And then I realized, I’ve never read the man’s Hugo nominated debut novel, Singularity Sky.

First off, what the heck is a singularity, and why should you care?  It’s important to know, if you’re interested in understanding the importance of Stross’s singularity themed science fiction.  Broadly defined, a singularity is when the rate of change reaches infinity, it’s the event horizon, the moment when artificial intelligence reaches beyond human comprehension.Those graphs that show a curved line going up and up and up? when that line is perfectly vertical, that’s the singularity. When computers and nanomachines and AIs are crunching information at a speed that’s faster than we can measure, that’s singularity. Some folks are pretty freaked out about the idea of computational ability being stronger, larger, and faster than the combination of all the human brains on the planet, and Stross? He’s the guy dancing on the razor edge of the event horizon.

Singularity Sky takes place in the aftermath of a singularity event which caused humanity to be scattered among the stars.  Martin Springfield, an engineer from Earth, has been dispatched to an out of the way star system called The Republic.  Overly aristocratic and trapped in their neo-luddite ways, the common people of The Republic are ripe for revolution, and in fact, a small rebellion in a little colony on Rochard’s World has already begun, thanks to an entity that calls itself The Festival.

Read the rest of this entry »

vN by Madeline Ashby

published July 2012 from Angry Robot Books

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I could so easily start every paragraph of this review with “but the best part of the book was. . .” because are just so many incredible aspects of this book – the characters and their lives, the surprising way this future came to be,  the dark subtexts, and the easy to understand technology, just to mention the ones that quickly come to mind. With nods to Blade Runner, Ai, and of course Pinocchio, vN is for anyone who is sick of waiting for the future to get here already. I recently had the honor to interview Madeline Ashby, and if there is anyone knows what the future  brings, it’s her. It wouldn’t surprise me if she edged out Cory Doctorow as my favorite futurist. She’s canny on the uncanny valley, and I think after reading vN you will be too.

First off, the vast majority of the book is from the viewpoint of the vN’s. Ashby immediately puts us behind the eyes of Amy, a five year old vN who has been raised by her vN mother and her human father. Her parents have chosen to raise her as close to a human child as possible, so along with all the other five year old kids in the neighborhood, Amy is in kindergarden at the beginning of our story.

But Amy isn’t a regular human girl. She’s a von Neumann self replicating humanoid. And it’s the “self replicating” part thats only the first brilliant thing in this book. By consuming the correct amount of feedstock, a vN can iterate – create a clone of themselves. Amy is a clone of her mother Charlotte, and every vN of their model has identical physical attributes. Conversely, should a vN want to stay child-size or not iterate, they must literally starve themselves. Amy has been starving since the day she was “born”. So when her grandmother threatens Charlotte, Amy’s first reaction is to disarm her grandmother by eating her.

Kindergardner eats Grandma is a bit of an opening shocker, no?

why yes, yes that was a bit of a shocker.  But a brilliant one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fool’s War, by Sarah Zettel

published in 1997

where I got it: borrowed from a friend (thanks E! I’ll get it back to you right soon!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

With so many new books that feature female protags who kick ass, sometimes it’s hard to believe books like that have been around for a while.  Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War is one such book,  and in classic Zettel fashion, this is a space opera that will get you thinking about things you weren’t expecting, and keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.  If you are a fan of Kameron Hurley or Elizabeth Bear, or just looking for some damn good space opera, this will be right up your alley.

In this far future, we have colonized a number of star systems, and we have FTL ships and Artificial intelligences. Due to a large enough number of AIs that have gone rogue and slaughtered entire colonies, many ship owners are leery of allowing any kind of untethered AI access to their systems.

Katmer Al Shei is a partner in a timeshare transport ship. Basically, she has the ship for 8 months, and then her brother-in-law has the ship for 8 months. The beginning of the book and the set up for our main plot line has her taking possession of the ship, collecting her small crew, recruiting a new pilot, and accepting the gift of a contracted Ship’s Fool.  Fools – part  entertainer, part psychoanalyst, part ship’s counselor, these are the only people who are guaranteed to keep your tightly wound crew members from going crazy in their tight quarters.  Katmer’s new Fool, Evelyn Dobbs, promises that she’s one of the Guild’s best.

Read the rest of this entry »

Look to Windward, by Iain M. Banks

published in 2000

Where I got it: borrowed from a friend (thanks!!!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.
This is the kind of book the phrase “space opera” was invented for: a story that sprawls light years and generations, alien civilizations, political intrigue, gigantic constructs that are controlled by semi-retired artificial intelligences, and thanks to some of the most amazing characters you will ever meet, a story that is as addictive as it is easy to follow. A science fiction story where the detailed science lives in the background, allowing the multi-faceted characters to take center stage.

Looking at something like this, even thinking about Banks’ massive creation known as The Culture, it’s easy to feel intimidated. Don’t.  Yes, Banks tosses you in, bodily, into the deep end, but trust me, absolutely everything (ok, nearly everything) is explained in detail before the book ends.   There is so much of, well, everything, that you’ll have to forgive me for not dwelling on the nitty gritty details.  This was my first Culture book, and those of you who have been reading these for years can laugh at everything I missed.

One of the many casualties of the Indiran War, now eight hundred years past, were the two stars Portisia and Junce, along with every creature who depended on those stars for sustenance and survival. Eight hundred light years away is the Culture Orbital Masaq, where much of the population is busy preparing for the social celebration of viewing the light of the twin novae, which has taken this long to reach them. It’s been so long, the horror of the war has been forgotten, leaving only the myths of the war heroes and the supernovae that will soon haunt the sky.

Read the rest of this entry »

Robots: The Recent A.I., edited by Rich Horton and Sean Wallace

published in 2012 from Prime Books

where I got it: purchased

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

For no good reason, I’ve never read much short fiction. I’ve had mixed luck with anthologies in the past, and that is a terrible reason to shy away from short fiction. Good thing I ran into Robots: The Recent A.I., an anthology so packed with my favorite authors that I felt like a kid in a candy store.  Authors such as Cory Doctorow, Cat Valente, Lavie Tidhar, Tim Pratt, Rachel Swirsky and more whipping up near and far future tales of an aspect of science fiction that is near and dear to my heart: artificial intelligence. How could I possibly say no? Most of these stores have already appeared elsewhere, but I had only ever heard of the Valente and Doctorow titles. Blazing big and bold on the cover is the word “robots”, but artificial intelligence is so much more that a metal machine that can have a conversation with you or play chess.

These are the stores about the new holy grail: creating an artificial intelligence that is so close to human we can’t tell the difference.   When an AI is so close to human you can’t tell, where is the line between ownership and freedom? Where is the line between loving someone and being programmed to love that person?  For a discussion about cold hard programming, where every decision comes down to a sharply defined one or zero, these are some mighty emotional and sensual stories. Some are told from a humans point of view, others are from the point of view of an AI. These are not your Papa Asimov’s robot stories, and it’s suddenly about more than playing chess.

It’s one thing to program a machine to believe that it is a human. It’s an entirely different thing to deal with the consequences. Frankenstein’s monster indeed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Silently_and_Very_Fast_by_Catherynne_M_Valente-200x281Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne Valente

Limited edition from Subterranean Press, also printed in Robots: the New AI anthology from Prime Books.

Published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It’s not the questions in Cat Valente’s latest novella that are unique,  it is the way she goes about answering them. Can a machine love? can a machine feel fear or pain or curiosity?  What if it has been programmed to respond to love, to shy away from large things, to seek out new data? Is that emotion or programming?   When all that matters the result, why would a different path matter?

Designed first as the prime computer of a large family home, and only later as a personal interface, Elefsis had always been programmed to observe and learn how to best serve her operators. But how to learn?  By asking.  Her operators have recently been sheltered teenagers, and they have taught her what they can about their innocent corners of the world, including the fairy tales old earth was raised on. Elefsis mistakenly believes that all stories have happy endings.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlien

published in 1966

where I got it: own a very well loved copy

why I read it: tanstaafl

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my absolute favorite Heinlein. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. So this review will surely jump the shark into fangirl gushing eventually. Or at least into in-joke territory.  The quick version of this review is “go read this book”.

In this near future story, the Moon has become a penal colony – Earth’s dumping ground for it’s undesirebles. Referred to as Luna by it’s “guests”, it’s residents are known as Loonies. It’s been about a hundred years since prisoners were first sent up, and although all children born on Luna are born free, few of them can ever hope to return to Earth due to irreversible physiological changes that occur in humans that spend too much time in low gravity.  Luna is managed by the prison Authority, who have placed their Warden in charge of all Loonies. With a population of over three million, and most of them “free”, the population of Luna is still required to do business through Authority: sell their hydroponic crops, buy water and ice, buy air to breathe. Is only game in town.

As Manuel Garcia’s grandfather liked to say “Luna was only open prison in history. No bars, no guards, no rules – and no need for them”. The moon isn’t any place for bravado or machismo. You learn how to use your p-suit and live civilly with others or you have an accident.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,401 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.