Fresh out of jail, Max finds himself drawn into the mystery of what’s gone wrong with the robots in his city. He’s forced to rely on help from Jennifer / Andrew, a body-hopping robot driven to solve the case before her product line is recalled. They need to figure out what went wrong while staying one step ahead of the corporations, gangsters, and crooked police that are hunting them across the city.
That’s the premise of the book, anyway. I’ve been marketing the book as “cyberpunk” because that’s what people are familiar with, but it has almost no cyber and very little punk. It would be more accurately described as sci-fi noir. This story doesn’t have drugged-up razer girls fighting mechs with robo-arms while some guy mind-hacks the corporate mainframe. Don’t get me wrong, I dig those kinds of stories as much as the next nerd. But this book is a little more grounded. It’s moody and thoughtful and it rains a lot.
Okay, to be totally honest it also has VR and robot fights and some explosions. But don’t go in expecting a thrill-a-minute roller coaster.
If you want to know a little bit more about the book and why I wrote it, read on:
On top of the plot and character drama, I use the book as an excuse to talk about artificial intelligence and how it might go wrong. The classic stories always have robots going full Skynet, concluding that they need to kill all humans for one reason or another. That was fine when we had no idea what machine intelligence was going to be like, but we’ve learned a lot since Asimov wrote down his Three Laws way back in 1950. I thought it would be nice to put a fresh coat of paint on all the old tropes.
The classic story goes something along the lines of, “Humans tell machine to end human suffering. Machine realizes humans are doomed to suffer. Machine concludes it needs to wipe out humans to end suffering, since doing so would result in a temporary surge in suffering before ending it forever.” That’s fine. We’ve built some fun stories out of that and similar ideas. The old stories always show how a couple of simple directives get misunderstood or are interpreted creatively in a way that results in KILL ALL FLESHBAGS. That worked as a fun logic puzzle for the reader to solve, but my thinking is that sophisticated minds require sophisticated drives and when we do wind up with bugs in our machine intelligence, it won’t be a simple problem that can be depicted with a logic gate.