‘Ghost Spin’ by Chris Moriarty, the third novel in the Spin trilogy, is a blend of cyber-noir, space opera and techno-thriller.
Cohen is a 400 year-old emergent AI and the oldest. The scientists had at first tried to replicate him, but each attempt committed AI-suicide. He is therefore unique. Others emerged, but none with the understanding and closeness to humans. Which is why ALEF, the AI police force for dealing with wild AI outbreaks, prefer to use him as a consultant when there are humans involved.
Cohen was sent to New Allegheny to deal with such an outbreak in the Navy’s shipyards. Instead, he decides to rescue what is left of another AI, Ada Lovelace, who has been made insane by her handlers. He escapes with what is left of Ada, but ends up trapped by the Navy. He commits suicide so his AI fragments can be scattered yard sale, in the hope that his wife, Catherine Li, will come hunt each down and build them back together. This is the story of Li trying to get her husband back and the fragments of Cohen trying to rebuild Ada.
‘Ghost Spin’ has an interesting and satisfying plot and explores some of the impacts of differences between emergent AIs and humans. Unfortunately, it is spoilt by too many slip-ups. Let me give you a few examples.
I had not read the first two novels in this trilogy. While I appreciated having the necessary background included for this novel, there were instances where I did wonder why some history was retold. The novel would have been better and pacier without them.
One scene has Li talking to Okoro and suddenly she is talking to Sital instead, before reverting to talking to Okoro. Li does go onto meet Sital on the bridge later in the chapter. This is just plain bad editing.
It is the right of every Science Fiction author to extend known science in ways that are unexpected and as yet unpredicted. What a Science Fiction author ought not to do is get the basic science facts on which their story hinges wrong. ‘Ghost Spin’ is set in a universe where colonised planets are being cut off by the failure of the ‘Bose-Einstein relays’ being winked out and the colonised planets are succumbing to a slow death because of the lack of genetic diversity. A quick Google search will throw up 500 as the minimum population for long-term survival to avoid the biodiversity insufficiency. Can all these planets really have such few colonists?
There are also a lot of sections where the backfill explanation for why a character does something is expanded far too much beyond what is necessary for the story. It slows the pace and takes the reader out of the main line of the story. There is more, but this would turn into a whinge list.
In summary, ‘Ghost Spin’ is an interesting story about the impact of emergent AIs on human life, but its writing could be much improved.
Rosie Oliver, M.A. (Creative Writing)
(pub: Spectra Books, 2013. 576 page paperback. Price: $16.00 (US), £11.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-553-38494-9)
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