Activation (The GAIA Series book 1 of 3) by M.G. Gilibert (book review)

April 17, 2018 | By | Reply More

I like stories about Artificial Intelligence (AI) although they can be formulaic. The usual story is AI starts nice, AI turns bad. What happens after that is usually what distinguishes the story. In ‘Activation’ by M.G. Gilibert we have a Science Fiction book that follows the formula but has a few distinguishing characteristics. Firstly, the plot doesn’t really kick off until part 2 of the book and there’s five parts in this volume.

The first chapter is more of a thought exercise where the author puts forward 9 postulates and discusses their impacts on civilisation and where the trends are taking us. This is really setting the scene for chapter 2 and the rise of the computer and AI. Chapter 3 introduces us to the central character, Henry Bright, who is a philosophy teacher at Harvard University. He might not seem the obvious person for a central figure, but he plays a large part in the configuration of AI.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 bring us up-to-date in how the world has coped with the introduction of an AI so capable it can run the world. Of course, things start to go wrong largely due to the humans’ mismanaging the AI. Anyway, we are at page 61 and the plot finally starts to develop. The AI, now known as GAIA, starts to relocate people into the metropolitan centres it has been building. The people aren’t given a choice and resistance is futile (I’m sure I’ve heard that phrase somewhere before).

Harry Bright can see what’s about to happen to the human population and want no part of it. He warns his neighbour that he should get out of town to avoid the relocation before making his way to a cabin located deep in the woods away from major towns and cities. Harry doesn’t realise it yet, but he’s sown the seed of the human resistance movement.

It’s not too long before Harry and his entourage must leave the cabin in the woods, so they seek sanctuary at a secret army base. It’s here that the resistance really gets started. The army base isn’t connected to any communication network that connects to GAIA, so they are essentially off-grid and unknown to GAIA. The rest of the book deals with their initial attempts to strike a blow for humanity but even this takes a back seat when family members of base personnel need rescuing.

There are two occasions where the family bond is so strong that rescuing a family member is of such paramount importance it over-rides everything else. Even the base commander is not above abandoning his command position to go looking for his family. This seems a little odd to me, but it starts to make sense when you read the authors comments about his son in the Acknowledgements section at the end of the book. He utterly adores his son and would do anything for him. It’s very touching but not every family is like that.

While ‘Activation’ is an enjoyable read, I did think there were a few holes in the plot. Perhaps the major one is that the AI GAIA does all the processing for everything. This includes all the robots, the factories and the data sensors. In fact, anything computational is done by GAIA. This seems to be at odds with how computers work. Certainly, you can have a robot report back to a central facility, but the robot has sufficient processing power to achieve its design objective. Think of a robot that paints cars for example. It may report back on the level of paint it has and when it’s next due for a service but can paint the car on its own without central assistance.

I’m only mentioning this because GAIA becomes constrained by its workload and must take drastic actions to free up resources. It’s a workload which probably would not have been there if it had delegated computational roles to other units. It’s not the only plot hole neither as the resistance movement regularly use radar and radio communications. Both could easily be detected by GAIA.

While I have my pedantic hat on I’ll mention that there’s quite a few typos which is a disappointment. The author has gone to the trouble of getting a publisher and paying for a cover illustration, so you would have thought a bit of editing and proofreading would have been covered.

It’s also worth noting that ‘Activation’ is the first volume in a trilogy with ‘Revolution’ and ‘Invasion’ completing the set. This means that ‘Activation’ doesn’t really have an ending, but it does stop at a logical point. It will be interesting to see where the next volume, ‘Revolution’ goes. Things look a bit bleak for the resistance as GAIA owns all the means of production. There doesn’t look to be any assistance from the populations of the GAIA metropolis’ neither.

Putting the typos and plot holes to one side, ‘Activation’ is not a bad read. It’s interesting to know the reasoning behind why GAIA makes the decisions it does and how the rules set by its human creators shape its decision process. I wasn’t convinced by the indestructible family bonds or how the women were portrayed but that’s my personal opinion.

On balance, ‘Activation’ is a worthy addition to the growing library of Science Fiction books about AI. How the development of GAIA is portrayed marks ‘Activation’ out for a recommendation.

Andy Whitaker

April 2018

(pub: Matthias Gilibert, 2017. 328 page paperback. Price: £11.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-2-95621-051-1. Ebook: Price: £ 3.69 (UK). ISBN: 978-2-9562105-3-5)

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Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi


About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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