8. September 2012, 20:20 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

Recursion by Tony Ballantyne is an ambitious exploration of the future development of artificial intelligence blended with the often current relevance of “Big Brother” and the “nanny state”. The title is apt as we are introduced to a future through three characters separated by decades (2051, 2119 and 2210), but related to each other, and the present in very obscure ways. Compounding the obscurity is an uncertainty manifested most pronouncedly in the characters’ perception of themselves as to whether they are human or artificial intelligences. It is a cleverly constructed mystery with layers and secrets.

Ballantyne’s journey into this future world provides an intriguing answer to the Fermi Paradox, and then travels an interesting road with the implications. Recursion revolves around not just one, but a number of thought-provoking ideas. One can find some exquisite paranoia about the continuous and ever increasing surveillance to which we allow ourselves to be subjected and the context that enables us to give away our right to privacy, as well as a hard look at corporate morals or the lack thereof. The title itself applies to both the levels of reality the author evokes and the self-replicating robots (von Neumann machines), and explores the concepts of perception, reality and hallucination. There is an underlying dialog the author seems to be having, apparently with himself, about the benefits and drawbacks of social engineering and who should be trusted with establishing what should and should not be the standards. Many readers might find Ballantyne’s prose rather stark with a trace of adolescent condescension, however his characters are memorable, and flawed enough to avoid being trite.

Recursion’s title may apply to the novel in another way as well. You might want to read it again when you finish. Not necessarily because it is so enthralling, but to decide if you understood what you read the first time, or to see if perhaps you missed something. Unless you can digest the book at one or two sittings, it is easy to lose track of what is going on and why. In that respect it somewhat lacks continuity, and requires a degree of mental alertness during it's consumption. It also ends on a somewhat odd note leaving one wondering if they have reached the end of the story. As this is the first of an intended trilogy this may perhaps be forgiven somewhat as a device to encourage reading the next volume.

- 30 -

Categories: ,
Keywords: review,recursion,ballantyne



Textile help
* Indicates a required field.

As a SPAM prevention measure, comments are moderated and will be posted once vetted.


Article & Comments

Comments are not enabled for all articles or documents.

Article Navigation


Internet and WWW
Music and Audio
Society and Culture
Stage and Screen
Tips and Tricks
Web Design
Web Site

The Birches - Support Child Safety Online


 Help to FIGHT spam!