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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Shapes of Their Hearts by Melissa Scott

The Shapes of Their Hearts by Melissa Scott. New York: Tor, 1998. ISBN: 0-312-85877-9

Does this book fit into the genre of cyberpunk? Almost, maybe, probably not exactly. The story is about a planet on which many or most of the inhabitants believe that an AI, an artificial intelligence, is their God. They also believe that clones are evil, and that going through the gates, the devices which allow interstellar travel, destroys the soul, since the body is disassembled, and reassembled at the other end, via some sort of particle physics. In fact, people DO change, and multiple transmissions can eventually alter DNA, and cause physical changes, and eventually personal dissolution, although that fact plays little or no role in this story.

The story is about an attempt to steal or capture a copy of the god-AI, and about what happens when two other AI's get all tangled up on the net with the god-mind AI. And much of the novel is spent in a direct brain to machine interface interaction, in which one of the main characters confronts the resulting jumble directly, attempting to unscramble his way out of it. Other characters include a cloned bodyguard (female), and a group of musicians who provide assistance. Music, strong women characters, machine intelligence, these are all common themes in Scott's writing.

An interesting story, but not, in my view, a masterpiece. It's just not quite riveting enough, not quite cutting edge enough. Good solid sci-fi, just not in the first rank. I never felt like I knew any of the characters well enough to really care all that much about them. Nevertheless, Scott is an accomplished author, and definitely worth reading. Marginally recommended, especially for fans of human/computer interaction.


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