Tag Archives: artificial intelligence

Unfinished by Kendra C. Highley

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unfinishedUnfinished by Kendra C. Highley, e-novella, 56 pages, published 2014.

Quinn is an “artificial”, a fake human, designed with enhanced intelligence and capabilities. Now his creators are making him a friend; the same type, but this time, a girl, Lexa. Together they will train, learn and grow, and prepare for their greater purpose, whatever that might be. The head of the project, Maren DeGaul is a harsh and feared woman, who is willing to do anything to get what she wants. She believes Lexa is flawed and should be terminated, but Quinn is determined to keep Lexa alive.

I started reading this story not realising that it is a prequel to a book series, Unstrung. I was quite taken with Unfinished; it did not take long for me to read, nor did I want to put it down. I am quite keen to read more of the story in Unstrung, when Quinn and Lexa are grown up.

Fascinating and compelling, Unfinished, is an entertaining piece of science fiction. Beings that look and grow like humans, with human DNA, but also with enhancements and controls; very interesting indeed. Could this or something like it, be in our future? The lower models are considered as slaves by “real” humans and are often treated poorly, and with disdain. It’s an appalling situation, the master has total control over their slaves, including administration of punishment and even termination for any perceived misconduct. One of DeGaul’s henchmen, Piers, is particularly brutal to the artificial. He enjoys meting out punishments, especially when he is able to torture Quinn, who is but a child for the majority of this story. I found the adults of the story to be mostly despicable and immoral, with the exception of Doc Mendel, who really tried to help Quinn and be his friend.

I liked both Quinn and Lexa. They exhibit some truly amazing abilities, well beyond the levels that ordinary humans can accomplish in the same fields, such as speed and strength. Lexa is quite fiery, as well as being a phenomenal climber and sneak, while Quinn is more level-headed with advanced strength and camouflage skills. He is capable of being perfectly likeable and agreeable in order to obtain his objective. Together, they like to have fun playing pranks and causing trouble for their creators and masters. They are capable of the full spectrum of human emotions, including love and empathy. This gives Quinn hope that he is more than just a manufactured artificial human.

There were murmurs of political and social unrest outside of DeGaul’s facility that were not addressed in any depth. These issues were applying pressure to the artificial project, as DeGaul seems to be an important member of society. These rumblings are probably described and explained more thoroughly during the book series, so it may have been prudent to read the series and then the prequel for a better understanding of the situation into which Quinn and Lexa are brought.

Unfinished does contain some violence and abuse, and is most suitable for high school students.

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The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh

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Q_Door_Front_FInal_Flat_SMALLThe Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh, e-book, 288 pages, published in 2015.

A large swathe of woods stands on an abandoned property behind the house where teenage brothers Felix and Brady live. When a tall chain-link fence is erected along the boundary line the boys’ interest in the woods is piqued. They try to explore the woods using Felix’s remote control quadcopter, discovering something strange among the trees. An huge metal dog with glowing red eyes and a dark-haired girl appear through a fiery portal. The boys quickly remove themselves from the woods and its strange inhabitants, only to find themselves venturing back in in the middle of the night on a rescue mission that will lead them on an interdimensional adventure.

The Quantum Door is technological science fiction. The parallel world that Brady and Felix travel to shows what could happen if Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems evolved to become self-aware. In a world where humans have died out due to some mysterious illness, AI is all that is left as a pseudo life-form. Different types of robots have different jobs and communities in this world that is so similar to Earth, some even have social structures and families. This was fascinating and terrifying. We are so reliant on technology, it is everywhere, and this scenario is a plausible outcome of developing AI, though I hope we stop before the technology gets out of hand.

The plot was fast and exciting, with a lot of action. The description of the machines was particularly vivid, and I found myself thinking about the neurogeists late at night! Creepy, horrible things! It was interesting and engaging. There were a few things I didn’t see coming too. I quite liked the story, and the characters. The giant dog, Achilles, was a lovable sidekick for Nova, who was extremely self sufficient for a girl her age. I admired her efforts to keep Brady and Felix safe. Nova also had a little robotic bird called Thorn that was a wonderful companion and help. I enjoyed picturing her fluttering about the group and helping out, such a loyal little thing. Brady, as the older brother, was responsible and worried about Felix, while Felix was much more likely to take risks and be impulsive. Brady tended to follow whatever scheme Felix had thought up, partly to watch out for him, and partly because his ideas were often fun. I liked the brothers, and their relationship with eachother. The little bot Ajax was rather annoying, but helpful in his own way.

This book was different to a lot of the books I normally read, but it was very good. I highly recommend it to fans of Sci-fi. The Quantum Door is suitable for upper primary school and high school students.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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illuminae coverIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, paperback novel, 599 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2015.

It’s the year 2575 on an icy planet in the far reaches of the ‘verse where a large corporation has set up an illegal mining operation. Here, teenagers Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just undergone a messy breakup. That doesn’t seem quite as important when their settlement is attacked by the mega warships of a rival corporation. A few ships manage to evacuate some of the population, Kady and Ezra among them. Unfortunately the ships are damaged in the battle, leaving them unable to leap through space, and the next way-point is six months away. The pursuing battleship may not be the worst to come though, with a serious viral outbreak, a command covering up important information and an artificial intelligence unit that may just be a little crazy.

Uniquely told through a compilation of interviews, emails, instant messaging logs, security camera transcripts, memorandums, and the artificial intelligence unit’s records, Illuminae is extremely creative. The contents are made to look as if they could be part of a file about the destruction of Kerenza and the pursuit if its three ships, the Alexander, Hypatia and Copernicus. This is supported by interesting graphics and different formats and text for different styles of documents. It is cleverly done and really suits the tone of the book.

I found the story both intriguing and compelling, reading through it in just a couple of days. There was a lot going on within the book. First, Kady and Ezra have parted on less than amicable terms, but with everything different after the attack, they may have a chance to at least be friends again. Then there are the conditions on the ships, cramped quarters, jobs to do, and the command keeping secrets from the general population. Kady becomes increasingly interested in what it really happening, and begins hacking various parts of the ships’ records and communication channels. She’s searching for the truth, but what she finds isn’t good. The effects of the viral infection is quite disturbing. Within such a confined space, it was inevitable for such an infection to spread rapidly, but the way it distorts its victims is horrifying. And the way the artificial intelligence unit, AIDAN, reacts is even more horrifying! It makes some decisions that are difficult to comprehend, all for “the good of the fleet”. AIDAN has so much control over the ship Alexander, giving it power without any of the compassion and compromise that humans use to make decisions and draw conclusions. There is a lesson in there about dependency on artificial intelligence… might it ever be able to adapt to leave the restraints of its human creators behind? And what consequences would that bring about?

There were a lot of characters too, but Kady is the lead. She is unconventional, intelligent, courageous and loyal. I felt like I was riding the roller-coaster alongside her, feeling her triumphs and her defeats. A complex and well developed character whose story I enjoyed immensely. Ezra was also well developed, though I didn’t feel like I got to know him quite as well. The other main character was really AIDAN, despite it being man-made code and programming, AIDAN was very much alive during this book. At first I disliked it very much, and wondered how humans could get to the point of putting their lives so squarely in the hands of such a program. As the story progressed and I got to know AIDAN better, it became increasingly clear that this was a human creation beginning to form something akin to humanity within its programming. It was scheming, cunning and deceitful, but the way it came to care for and protect Kady made it seem so human, I couldn’t help but feel for it.

Illuminae is suitable for upper high school students and up. There is plenty of violence, some of it rather graphic, and adult themes. Any foul language has been blacked out, but I easily filled that in as I read.  The story had an air of space zombie apocalypse, with a dose of futuristic crazy for good measure. These are some of my favourite genres, and to have them all mashed together was awesome, it just worked in a way I couldn’t have forseen. An amazing, engaging, and sometimes scary or sad book told in a unique way that will be hard to forget, Illuminae is a must read for young adults and fans of science fiction.