My Rating: I had to Stop Reading
Sort of a cross between a techno-thriller and a cyberpunk novel, this book seems to take its influences equally from Richard K. Morgan’s and Neal Stephenson’s work in those genres. It’s distinctly it’s own thing, though. Of all the books in this list of unfinishable books, this one is the most readable and unobjectionable. Many people really enjoy this book. I did not.
There’s nothing going on with the characters. It’s not that they’re unlikable (they’re not, except for one) or that they are types derived from a hundred other unremarkable characters just like them (they are,) but that they are place-holders for the real characters who should have been fully written into the book. To use a term of art from a field I’m sure the author is familiar with, the characters were merely mocks from the test framework rather than the actual code these mocks were standing in for.
The plot proceeds with efficiency, nothing wrong with that. The story feels uninspired. It resembles the worst of the “monster of the week” episodes of the sort of T.V. show where the “monster” is an intelligent computer, and the computer has decided to kill everyone who gets in its way. These are always the worst.
Before I go on it’s worth mentioning that details of the technology are presented reasonably accurately; Suarez clearly knows what he’s talking about and in that sense the story has a lot more plausibility than most of those “crazy computer tries to take over” plots I referenced above.
You know, before an intelligent computer takes up killing humans as a regular thing, it might want to start out with something a little less risky, like maybe playing some online games with humans or driving a computerized car (takes control of newest model of Tesla) and tour the fifty states… or something. I don’t know. But the possibilities are numerous. Murder is only one thing a computer might do. It’s not totally implausible, but it is totally uninteresting at this point. If you’re really set on having a murderous computer as the driver of the plot, you should in the interest of believibility have the computer recruit human allies. In fact, the computer could just skip the killing part altogether…
Reading the book, I got the feeling Suarez is influenced more by television and film than by other books in his genre. The tight plotting and minimal characterization fit well with a CSI style presentation. I think the story would work better in that format. However, it’s still a completely unsurprising story.
Now, it’s possible the author is just setting up the story in the way he does to subvert these expectations later on, but he needs to give me something to keep going. For example, Philip K. Dick could have told almost exactly the same story with the same number of words, but provided us with relatable, if not likable, characters and some compelling set-pieces along the way, so that we could get to the twist without putting down the book first.