Tag Archives: artificial consciousness

Review of AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear #Brainfluffbookreview #AncestralNightbookreview

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It was the cover that drew me to this one – and I scooped it up, when I saw it was a hefty science fiction read that would be ideal audiobook to listen to while doing the chores.

BLURB: Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants. She thinks she knows who she is. She is wrong. A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.

REVIEW: At just over 500 pages, this packs in a whole lot of space opera, including many classical genre ingredients with modern spin on them, which I found really intriguing. However, I am aware that if I had been reading this one instead of listening to the excellent narration of Nneka Okoye, I think there would have been passages which I might have skimmed. The main protagonist, Haimey, is complicated and we learn of her tangled past as the story unfolds. Suffice to say that she was caught up in some major wrongdoing in her past, which means that her brain chemistry has been radically altered in the interests of justice. Though, as her whole life unravels once the discovery of the alien artefact and its ensuing consequences crashes around her, we also learn that the story is not nearly so straightforward and simple as she thought. The whole story is told in first person viewpoint, which happens to be a particular favourite of mine.

There are moments of high drama with great action involving space battles, alien confrontations and close quarters fighting. There are also scenes of drawn-out tension where Haimey is confronted with another character, whom she is strongly attracted to, but ultimately doesn’t wish her well. There is a romantic same-sex relationship of the slow-burn variety, so there is nothing remotely graphic in the book. There is also a fair amount of musing about all sorts of issues, including the nature of government; personal responsibility, seen through the lens of someone who routinely self-medicates for mood enhancement, by boosting brain secretions with the aid of implants; and what her cats think about. Yes… We even have space cats. This is a wide-ranging book that isn’t afraid to wander away from the narrative arc into all sorts of by-ways as the main character has plenty of downtime. Did I mind? No – because I found those musings absolutely fascinating. I am also a sucker for a well-drawn, complex character with hidden layers, which Haimey provides in spades.

It was a while since I listened to this one and wrote this review, but I’m adding a rider – this book won’t leave me alone. And although since I shunted it back into the Cloud, I’ve read and listened to a slew of wonderful reads – this is currently my outstanding read of the year. Highly recommended for those who enjoy intelligent space opera action, punctuated by episodes where ideas are discussed.
10/10




*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton #Brainfluffbookreview #EmilyEternalbookreview

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Meet Emily – she can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets and even fix your truck’s air con, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.

She’s an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

I really liked Emily, an artificial consciousness (not an A.I.) designed to assist humans overcome traumatic situations. Emily is in huge demand right at the start of the book, when humanity is grappling with the knowledge that the sun is going to die in a matter of weeks – and so are they. Interestingly, the book is told from Emily’s viewpoint in first person pov, so we get a ringside seat to Emily’s thoughts. To be honest – while I consciously suspended my disbelief while reading the book, I wasn’t completely convinced by her to the extent that I could simply relax into the storyline without considering whether she actually worked. It wasn’t a dealbreaker and there is a lot about the book that I thoroughly enjoyed – but it would have been a 5 star rating from me if I’d been able to accept the whole premise.

That said, Emily is very likeable – smart, empathetic and clearly concerned about the humans she has grown up around in her 5-year-old life at the university lab where she works alongside a dedicated team of scientists and students. One of the things I love about this book is the pacing. I didn’t read the blurb, so found the initial plight – Sunmaggedon, as it’s called – both riveting and enjoyable. Just as I was settling down to discover how the university are going to use Emily to help with the desperate situation, it all turns into something else as another agenda forces itself onto the scene. The horror and violence was well done – sufficiently engrossing to keep the pace up and the pages turning, but not too much so that Emily is completely overwhelmed, thus slowing everything down.

The next plot twist – which I won’t reveal because it takes us into Spoiler territory – again, caught me unawares with a development I thoroughly enjoyed. However I found the romance between Emily and Jason annoying, to the extent that I was a tad disappointed when I discovered that he hadn’t died during a major incident near the beginning of the book.

The final plot development wasn’t one that wholly convinced me, though at no stage was I tempted to walk away. If you enjoy science fiction at the quirkier end, with a strong non-human protagonist, give this adventure a go. You may find Emily more believable than I did, but even if you have reservations, this is a brave book aiming high with an ambitious concept that I mostly enjoyed. The ebook arc copy of Emily Eternal was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10