Tim Scott, prodigy of Silicon Valley, has lost his wife and is since mourning. But he wouldn’t be one of the richest and most admired IT specialists if he wasn’t the one with visions. And now his dream has come true: a cobot, perfect replica of his wife Abbie, lookalike and fed with memories of former wife’s life. As soon as the public becomes aware of this technological milestone, strong opinions collide: how do you treat a robot who looks, speaks and behaves like a human? Who do Abbie’s memories belong to? And why would someone prefer to live with a machine if he could have any woman in the country? For Tim the last question is easy to answer, but this is something he would never tell the public or his new partner. He mission is far bigger than just building a perfect copy of Abbie.
“The Perfect Wife” is a stunning combination of science-fiction novel and thriller. I especially appreciated the perspective taken: together with recently awaken cobot Abbie, we learn our way around the world of Tim Scott and only bit by bit gain knowledge about the seemingly perfect marriage he and Abbie had. There is a second voice adding information somehow from the inside Tim’s company, yet it takes until the very end to understand where this voice comes from. Many unexpected twists and turns keep suspense high and the more the action advances, the more you ask yourself what your position is when it comes to artificial intelligence.
Creating the perfect partner has been mankind’s dream forever, already in the old Greek tales you find the example of Pygmalion and throughout our history, this has always been a vision. Now, our technical knowledge and the means seem at a point where this could be possible. I found JP Delaney’s idea quite realistic and not too far-fetched after all. Machine learning has been around for a couple of years now and more and more humanoid robots inhabit our world. We even talk to them as if they were humans and Siri, Alexa and the like have become a normal part of our life.
There is another aspect I found particularly interesting: Tim’s and Abbie’s son was diagnosed with autism and the cobot seems to be much more capable of understanding his ways of communication than human beings. They share some similarities in how their programming/brains work which leads me to wonder if with the help of machines, we could facilitate life for many people suffering from this or similar disorders.
All in all, a suspenseful thriller which raises the most relevant questions of our time and surely mirrors our human hubris. Something we definitely must reconsider.
When April May leaves the office totally exhausted at 3am to return home, she comes across a surely true remarkable thing. She calls her friend Andy to meet her and to bring his camera so that they could film this big sculpture which suddenly was just there in the middle of New York City. April names it Carl and Andy uploads their short video to YouTube. What both of them do not have the least premonition of at that moment is what happens afterwards. All over the world, Carls have appeared, but New York’s one is considered the first and April May somehow the connection to these strange and unmovable figures. This could be the story, but not in our times anymore because the internet is yearning for idols, for people to worship and follow and April May has become exactly that. She is not the 23-year-old design student anymore, a brand replaces her personality and obviously, for the Carls, she is the human being to communicate with.
Hank Green knows what he is talking about in making the internet and different social media platforms the centre of his debut novel since he himself has become famous as a video blogger and with different web projects. “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” is often classified as a science-fiction novel, I would like to disagree here because there is not much that isn’t real today in it. Just the one aspect, aliens making contact, yet the rest of far from being futuristic and imaginative but all too real.
No matter which genre you assign the book to, it is a great read that offers food for thought on several levels. Normally, I prefer novels with realistic settings and plots that create the impression of authenticity. Well, this is not really the case here with those Carls showing up unexpectedly. Yet, I was immediately hooked and couldn’t put it down anymore. April May – I have to say it here: did I ever come across a protagonist with a more ridiculous name? I don’t think so – is quite an interesting character since, on the one hand, she surely is a bit naive or at least does not anticipate the extent of her doings. On the other hand, she seems to be quite natural and acts on impulse which I liked at lot since it made it easy to sympathise with her in a certain way. Her development from young woman to brand is remarkable and gives you a great idea of media and internet dynamics; I also liked the marketing background coming with it which was masterly integrated into the novel.
I you ever wanted to explain to anybody how the internet community works and what the advantages and dangers of social media are, just hand over this novel. I think it is a wonderful example of today’s communication mechanisms and of how nobody can control these processes anymore once set in motion. The internet is not a separate space any longer where you can have something like a second life, it has become a part of our real life and certainly has an impact on what happens in the real world nowadays. It is flattering that Green makes his alien believe that there is some clever and beautiful life on earth, yet, for me the more important message to take from the book was certainly the question of how we can synergise those two worlds that we are living in without forgetting who we are when creating ourselves.
In several respects a great read that could have an important impact and make us readers ponder about our behaviour.
Der Wohnraum der Zukunft: „Himmelhof“ könnte Vorbild für die durch Technik optimierte Wohnform werden. Von überall aus der Welt kommen Besuchergruppen, um sich ein Bild von der Siedlung bei Augsburg zu machen, wo selbstfahrende Fahrzeuge, per Spracheingabe agierende Smarthomes und ausgeklügelte Überwachungssysteme das Leben nicht nur angenehmer, sondern auch sicherer machen. Helen Jagdt und ihr Kollege Walter Fromm wollen sich als Gäste ebenfalls ein Bild vom Leben im Idyll machen. Aber eigentlich sind sie in geheimer Mission für die Kreuzer Holding unterwegs, die Adam Heise, dem Herrscher über die Siedlung, durch großzügige Geldgabe das Projekt erst ermöglichte. Neben den Meldungen über die fantastischen Errungenschaften treten nämlich auch eine Reihe von Gerüchten über seltsame Machenschaften, medizinische Experimente und das unerklärliche Verschwinden von Bewohnern an die Öffentlichkeit außerhalb von Himmelhof.
Su Turhan, erfolgreicher Regisseur und Autor, hat das klassische Science-Fiction Setting gewählt: eine von Technik gesteuerte Umgebung, die von einem größenwahnsinnigen Individuum überwacht und gelenkt wird. Neben den positiven Absichten wirken auch dunkle Abgründe, die jedoch tief im Untergrund verborgen sind und nie für die Öffentlichkeit gedacht waren. Eine vielversprechende Konzeption, die jedoch in der Umsetzung nicht ganz überzeugend gelungen ist.
Als Antagonisten stehen Adam Heise und Helen Jagdt – für meinen Geschmack eine etwas zu plakative telling name Anlage, aber das ist sicher Geschmackssache – im Zentrum der Handlung. Er der geniale Kopf hinter Himmelhof, sie die attraktive Verführerin, die ihm die Geheimnisse entlocken soll. Beide sind mir aber etwas zu wenig konsequent und unscharf angelegt; vor allem hätte ich mir von einer starken weiblichen Figur gewünscht, dass sie nicht ganz so dümmlich daherkommt, wie es bei Helen oft der Fall ist. Die anderen Figuren blieben leider völlig blass, weshalb man auch nur wenig Verbindung zu ihnen aufbauen konnte und ihr mysteriöses Verschwinden einem nicht so getroffen hat, wie es vermutlich intendiert war. Gut gefallen haben mir allerdings die Ideen für die Ausgestaltung der Smarthomes, vor allem die selbstputzenden Roboter hatten einen gewissen Charme. Die medizinische Forschung, die im Tunnelsystem unter der Siedlung durchgeführt wird, konnte mich leider gar nicht überzeugen, was vor allem daran lag, dass sie irgendwie nicht richtig zum Rest der Geschichte passen wollte. Sie blieb als Einzelaspekt immer etwas diffus und unmotiviert.
Der Plot hat durchaus Potenzial, aber irgendwie ist der Roman für mich holprig geblieben und nur teilweise plausibel und fesselnd.
When the first student doesn’t wake up after a long party night, nobody is really scared, it’s just something that happens. But when more and more people in the small Southern Californian college town just fall sound asleep, fear starts to grow. What is happening in town? Is this an infection and what does the sleep do to the people? Students, professors, nurses, doctors, average people – they all can catch the mysterious virus which seems to cause wild dreams and a comatose state. Public life slowly comes to a standstill and the town is put under quarantine, it has become too dangerous to go there because nobody knows what kind of new biological threat they are dealing with. Who will win: the virus or the human race?
Sometimes there are books that you suddenly see everywhere and everybody seems to talk about them. When I first came across “The Dreamers”, I was convinced that this was nothing for me, I prefer realistic stories and nothing too fancy and out of the ordinary. But the hype about it rose my curiosity and thus, I wanted to know what is behind it all. Well, to sum it up: a notable novel which is skilfully written and got me hooked immediately.
What I appreciated especially were two things. First of all, the dramaturgy of the plot. The mysterious virus just infects students and then slowly spreads and the number of characters that we got to know is progressively affected and falls asleep. As the number of victims rises, the life in the small town is reduced more and more to a minimum. It is obvious that there must be some kind of final fight in which either side gains the upper hand and the other succumbs – yet, Karen Thompson Walker finds a different solution which I liked a lot since it perfectly mirrors life’s ambiguity.
The second aspect was even more impressive. I fell for the author’s laconic style of writing. It is down to earth, concise and everything but playfully metaphorical. It reflects the characters’ mood of having to survive under the extreme circumstances: Just go on, do what is necessary, keep your head high and make yourself useful. That’s just how it is, so what? No need to fantasize about an alternative world, we just have this situation and need to cope with it.
To sum it up: just like the sleep overcomes the characters, this novel could spellbind me.
With FullLife’s service, women can finally get rid of all the negative aspects of pregnancy. No more sickness, no more pain during child birth and no more abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes and all the fun. And the best: the men can play a part, too! Simply use the pouch and have your baby cuddled in the perfect environment for 9 months. It does not take too long to convince the people that this is real evolution, the next step that makes mankind throw away the ballast and dangers connected to a pregnancy and child birth. And not to forget: this is how non-traditional families can finally fulfil their dream of having a baby. That’s what science is for, to lift mankind to a higher level, isn’t it? But progress normally also demands a price to be paid, it never goes for free. Up to now, however, only few people know how high the price really is.
Helen Sedgwick’s novel which is somewhere between Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale, raises a lot of questions. First of all, how far do we want to go for comfort and the fulfilment of our wishes. It only sounds too attractive to overcome all the negative side effects of being pregnant. And of course, the line of argumentation that now men and women are really equal since women cannot be reduced to reproduction anymore is also tempting at first. Second, we see scientists who – for different kinds of reason – act against their conscience and subordinate everything to alleged progress. Ethics cannot be ignored, undeniably, but sometimes there seems to be the time and space when you can sedate these thoughts and mute them in a way. Yet, quite naturally, this does not make the questions go away.
The novel tells the story from a very personal point of view which allows the severe topic to come across in a very human way with characters who have feelings and who suffer. In this way, you get involved in what they go through, the loss, the hopes, the fears. It does not provide easy answers to huge ethical dilemmas, but it adds some perspectives and reveals that quite often, there is much more than just black and white and that it is the different shades of grey which make it difficult for us to decide on the core questions of life. Lively characters portray this dilemma in a convincing way thus the novel can take it on with the great names of the genre.