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Silver Screenby Justina Robson
Synopses & Reviews
Silver Screen presents an enjoyably different, subversive slant on the Science Fiction themes of AI and cyberspace. Insecure and overweight heroine Anjuli O'Connell is one of a group of friends who have been hothoused from an early age to perform in genius-level jobs. But Anjuli worries that her eidetic memory and her friendship with genuine smart boy Roy Croft has been her ticket to success, rather than any real intelligence of her own.
She's put to the test when Roy kills himself in an experiment to upload his mind into cyberspace, seeking that SF dream of bodiless immortality...which doesn't work as expected. At the same time her boyfriend's research has led to him harnessing himself to dubious biomechanoid technologies which pull the user into mental symbiosis, creating hybrid consciousness — a new "I", continuous with the old, but different. "Where does life end and the machine begin?"
Meanwhile Anjuli's grasping multinational employer, OptiNet, the owner of global communications AI, 901, is locked into an increasingly bitter war with the Machine-Greens, who preach AI liberation. As the case for 901's humanity, or otherwise, comes up before the Strasbourg Court, expert witness Anjuli is targeted by assassins and entangled in the hunt for an algorithm which is the key to machine consciousness, and which may even be the master-code of life itself.
This story explores many interfaces between humans and their technologies, between the promises of science and the explanations of faith. It is written in a first person style which mingles elements of detective story and confessional. Alongside its SF content the book delves into the complexities of friendship, loyalty, love and betrayal from an intimate human perspective.
This is grrrlstyle SF: as well as all the favourite "Airfix" features, the protagonists deconstruct personal relationships amidst macrocosmic and deeply philosophical goings-on. The writing is punchy, but with a literary sheen. It delivers complex concepts and a twisting plot with a deceptively light touch.
"'Where does the life end and the machine begin?' asks one of the cyberscientists in Robson's 1999 UK debut, now making its overdue American appearance after the critically acclaimed Natural History (2004). Yes, it's the same old AI question framed in Matrix-style allure, and many readers are likely to find the whole idea a little too familiar. Nonetheless, while Natural History is a superior read with a tighter plot, this messier treatment is also thought-provoking SF. When Anjuli O'Connell, an 'AI psych' and self-described 'human file server,' discovers the body of fellow OptiNet employee and friend, Roy Croft, after he's uploaded his essence into 901, OptiNet's giant AI, Anjuli becomes involved in a deadly game. Is Roy, an anarchist and machine liberation advocate who interfaces with others through projected holographs of silver screen legends, dead or part of 901? Anjuli must find Roy's old diary, the 'Source,' and the key to the mystery. Roy's zealot father and Anjuli's testimony in an important trial further complicate the quest. Sometimes, the confessional style-narrative slows to a snail's pace, while Anjuli mulls over the puzzle pieces and takes a brief detour into a goofy subplot with her cyborg boyfriend. Still, this is a fascinating peek into the development of one of SF's brightest new stars." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A startlingly innovative take on the tried-and-true theme of artificial intelligence." Kirkus Reviews
"Despite her hard-edged topic, Robson attempts and achieves many of the same humanistic effects that Gibson brings off in later novels such as Pattern Recognition." Washington Post
Short-listed for the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Science Fiction Association's Best Novel Award, Silver Screen presents an enjoyably different, subversive slant on the themes of AI and cyberspace.
About the Author
Justina Robson was born and brought up in Leeds. She studied philosophy and linguistics before settling down to write in 1992. Her earlier novels, Silver Screen and Mappa Mundi, were both shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
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