Meet Richards and Klein – the Holmes and Watson of the 22nd century. Except that Richards is a highly advanced artificial intelligence, and Klein his German ex-military cyborg partner.
I really, really enjoyed this book. I’m a complete sucker for robots and artificial intelligence stories, so I had high hopes going into this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. There’s just enough detail to the issues surrounding the artificial intelligences, a passable whodunnit investigation, and some enjoyable action sequences. It was a quick, easy read, but there’s some meat to think about in there, too.
Within the digital second world … vast and ugly things with teeth of sharpest code circled Richards’ nominal soul.
The action is split between the real, physical world, the abandoned virtual reality worlds from which the novel takes it’s name, or the Grid, a kind of much enhanced Internet, which Richards inhabits. I really enjoyed these Grid segments, as Richards navigates the virtual space and uses it to interact with the physical through whatever Grid-connected machinery he can find.
Early on in the novel, Richards meets with a musician, another A.I. of equal status to him. They have a brief conversation.
“We’re all good at something, and the something we’re good at is what we are,” she said. “They say we are the freest of Neukind. I love my music, but do I have a choice but to love it? I was made to make music, and to love doing so. The thought of not loving it frightens me, but then, is it the lack of choice in loving it that frightens me more?”
One thing I always like in novels with A.I. is getting a look at their minds and how it informs their behaviour. As good as the action sequences are and the chase of the detective work, it was when the philosophical aspects of the lives of artificial intelligences got some spotlight that I enjoyed it most. Haley does a great job of delivering back story about some of the political and societal impact A.I. has had on the world without resorting to obtrusive infodumps.
Reality 36 is the first novel in a series — something we try not to do for Different Skies — but in this case I think it was worth it. I rarely read series, but I’ll be reading then next installment.