Speak by Louise Hall (book review).

I’m never sure if I should believe the hype that goes with any book. Louise Hall’s novel ‘Speak’ is definitely acquired taste as it’s a mish-mash of first person perspectives that don’t really connect well together. It is supposed to be about the connections that bring together a limited range semi-artificial intelligence called Mary3 that can react to conversation. I saw something similar back in the 1970s in the London Science Museum, although this one does appear a little smarter. Mary3’s dialogue with a youngster is preserved as part of a Texas defence exhibit. However, this is spread across two different centuries and there is still no obvious connection at the end.

Speak

There are letters sent by Alan Turing to the mother of Chris, a childhood friend who committed suicide. We never see her response so it’s a somewhat one-sided conversation and he really doesn’t make any mention of Bletchley Park or indeed his work on computers, which when you think about what this book is supposed to be about makes it more like padding than serving a purpose. Mind you, I doubt if Turing would talk to anyone as to what he did during the war. About the only thing Hall uses an Americanism which we never had back then in the UK was to use the word ‘passing’. We still tend to say someone has died.

If anything, it tends to give the clue that Louise Hall is building up potted histories for various characters rather than telling a particular story. As such, I tend to see this type of book for those with an acquired taste for character than plot which makes it very acquired reading which might not appeal to everyone, least of all people like me who like some plot wrapped around their stories.

GF Willmetts

October 2015

Speak by Louise Hall

(pub: Orbit. 314 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50607-4)

check out website: www.orbitbooks.net

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