Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!)
Who I Recommend This To: Folks wanting to explore AI in computer programs would find this interesting. Oh, and the humor in the first story about emoticons is awesome.
Publisher: InfinityPlus (2012)
Length: 271 pages
In this collection are seven stories that I am excited to tell you about. Guy Hasson has mostly focused on near-future technology concerning artificial intelligence (AI) and the human quest for immortality. There’s also some emoticon humor mixed in, regret on past decisions, relationship problems, and the hunt for one’s origins. If this sounds interesting, you can catch further reviews, interviews, and giveaways on the blog tour hosted by The Little Red Reviewer.
Generation E: The Emoticon Generation
A reporter and parent takes it upon himself to snoop on his teen-age daughter, checking her cell phone messages. However, all he finds are a bunch of emoticons, circles, partial circles, and exclamation marks in different colors. So, he decides to do what he does best – research this new ‘language’ of the e-generation. First he finds an emoticon poet in a small Nevada town in the basement of his mom’s house, working with dial-up connection. Next he hunts down the founder of Ping!, the creator of the instant mobile attention for the on-the-go teen: texting ! back and forth to friends and loved ones to show them you care. Of course, if you receive a Ping!, you need to acknowledge it, by using the roger – a full circle filled in. This story starts off very believable and I almost mistook it for an introduction to the collection. Hehe. It was too long for that, and the second half of the story was too ridiculous, with all that Ping!ing going on. The story makes some interesting arguments back and forth about the necessity for language, yet it’s overuse. Overall a fun piece that gave me a chuckle throughout the second half.
Glynis leads a pretty quiet life for a teen. She lives at home, exclusively, having a rare bone calcium deficiency that makes her frail. Her mother, Olivia, and two of her mother’s friends from work are the only people in her life. However, she does spend lots of time on the internet and watching daily news and tv. So she knows that most kids have 2 parents, or at least know something about both of them. Yet she knows nothing about her father. She lays a small trap for her mother, requesting simply her father’s name for her 13th birthday. Her mother relents and tells her this one name, and nothing more. But this only leads Glynis on an interesting and sometimes frustrating chase for the truth through cyberspace. Breaking into a variety of databases and using public cameras, she tracks a man who may know something of her origins. Eventually she blackmails him into telling her, and it was not what she expected. I enjoyed this story immensely. It was not what I expected it to be, nor did it end the way I thought it would after the plot twist was revealed. Oooo! I really wanted to pop one of the characters in the nose at the end of this book, so well did the story have me in it’s grasp. This was the jewel of the collection for me.
Mr. Shamgar is in his 90s. He has been interviewed countless times over the decades about how and why he assassinated a British officer in the 1940s. Now, this time, Mr. Sanders has some new bit of technology that shows glimpses into the past, but only sounds. Recordings have been made of the conversations by the Levi resistance officers leading up to when Shamgar was assigned to the assassination. First, Mr. Sanders plays the recordings of Shamgar’s conversation with his superior officer concerning the assassination and the reasons for it’s necessity. All is as he has remembered and told countless times over. The British officer had planned nefarious deeds on the orders of none other than Churchill himself. By killing this one man, countless lives would be saved. This recording vindicates and supports what Shamgar has believed and told his entire life. But Mr. Sanders has another recording, one that he fears may break Mr. Shamgar’s spirit. This was an interesting piece in which a man carried out an irreversible deed for the wrong reasons, even though he believed he was doing good at the time. When I finished this story, I didn’t get the ending right away. Indeed, I found myself pondering it in my sleep. But by the light of another day, I think I finally understood the smile that creased Mr. Shamgar’s face at the end. This is one of those stories that keeps you thinking, and I do so enjoy me a good think.
Freedom Is Only A Step Away
Meet the Grants: Roger & Joan and their kids Russell and Rose. This is a family in which the adults rely heavily on the tv for news and fresh thoughts. Roger listens to a news program that features a Dr. Burrows, whose research has determined that adults have the same capacity for imagination as children; only that ability has been bottled up, caged , bit by bit over a number of years, turning the masses of adults into boring drones. Further research goes on to show that there are 4 things that cage imagination: time constraints, living to someone else’s standards, appeasing others, forcibly performing a task at a certain time. This was an interesting piece in that can we truly live as a free society, where we live each moment whim by whim? Who wants to go to work anyway? Or clean the house, or make dinner, or see the dentist, or obey traffic laws? This story focuses on the kids – meaning that the adults don’t want to inflict permanent damage by caging or blocking their imagination. So, no homework, no set tasks in school, etc. I enjoyed the ending of this piece because this Freedom Revolution did not lead to a utopian society. Thought provoking.
Melanie has a present for her besotted man, Jake. She is one of the few privy to a new technology – one that she will help market. For Jake’s birthday, she gets him all set up with this new ‘toy’. In essence, a copy of Jake’s brain is taken and broken down into some simple equations, with numbers representing any time in his past life and in his future life. Plus, this little ‘toy’ can also give Jake different versions of himself based on decisions or different upbringing, etc. At first Jake is fascinated, enjoying the memories of birthdays gone by. But then Melanie starts spending more time with his ‘toy’, leading to relationship issues. This was yet another interesting piece, causing thought to accompany my entertainment. Would I really want a copy of myself to play with? Intellectually, I mean ;). But seriously, what memories would I spend the most time on – the happy ones? The sad ones? The confusing ones? And would I end up spending more time on this ‘toy’ than I would being out and about building new, meaningful memories? Yet another great story giving us a glimpse of possible future tech, and the possible pitfalls to that tech.
Professor Arthur Bates is a mental giant in the field of mathematics. He is also in his 90s. Dr. Jeneane Gold is a pretty sharp scientist herself, and 20. She has brought a little something by for Prof. Bates to read, and he is not going to like it. Still, he gives it a read, and yes, his reaction is thoroughly unhappy. Yet, there is relief and understanding beneath the unhappiness. Back in his younger days, Prof. Bates got his mathematical theories all in one weekend through an ingenious technological trick. He created a copy of himself in computer program form and then set the program to give his computer self 1 year to dream up new theories. To the physical Prof., only a few seconds pass – just long enough to hit all the proper keystrokes. However, his computer self was very, very bored during that 1 year. The two argue back and forth about the time – to the computer Prof., the year is very real, he has memories of it all, and only 4 white walls and a bed to keep him company. The physical Prof. finds this ludicrous, and pushes the program forward a decade, and further. With each leap in time, more and more theories have been thought up by his computer self, and therefore, more are downloaded to be used by the physical Prof. This story I found chilling. We are right there as a society, on the cusp of true AI, to be used by us humans for our human needs. This tale points to how cruel and inconsiderate we humans could very well be to an AI being that we created for a simple purpose.
Tony & Tony had planned to marry. In fact, Tony Moore had his entire life planned out – the stages of his career, when to marry, when to have kids, etc. So, when he accidentally bumped into Tony and her friend, who were searching for a phone to call a car service about a flat tire, he believed it was destined. Tony is a CEO of EternityPlus, a company on the edge of what is possible – copying a person into a computer program. The whole thing – memories, personality, everything. His company is in the testing stages, merely months away from being able to go on the market. Tony and his fiance are soon to be wed, when a tragic car accident steals her life away. In the last few seconds of her life, Tony manages to capture an image of her brain with the EternityPlus technology. However, then he becomes obsessed with playing the same 10 seconds over and over, analyzing it ever deeper, and pulling more and more images from her past. Then one day Tony and Matt notice a new image, one they can’t explain, at least, not until they meet the man from the image. As you can see, this story followed the same theme as several others in this collection – the what ifs of capturing a human personality, mind, and potentially soul in a computer program. While I found having the two affianced characters named the same to be slightly confusing at points throughout the story, the main focus was on Tony Moore, a desperately sad character. Throughout this story, Tony moves from absolute certainty in his love and in her love for him to the opposite, only to have his doubts reinforced by his take on a series of coincidences. Thought provoking.
What I Liked: The emoticon humor; Hatchling was my favorite in this collection for the plot twist and the unexpected ending; the AI theme pervades through several of the stories; the characters were very real to me – definitely human even if they did not have blood and bone.
What I Disliked: A few times in two of the stories (Her Destiny and Freedom Is Only A Step Away) things seemed to drag on a bit and didn’t have the same pacing as the rest of the collection (minor dislike, obviously not enough to make me put the book down).