JP Delaney – Playing Nice

jp delaney - playing nice
JP Delaney – Playing Nice

Theo’s birth is highly dramatic, much too early, the young boy has to be taken to intensive care while his mother Maddie is still weakened by the C-section. So, it’s Pete’s task to get familiar with all the machines and to take care of his little son. Despite the turbulent start, Theo develops much better than expected and Pete turns out to be the perfect father while Maddie struggles with her new role. Quite naturally, they decide to have Pete stay at home since his job is less well paid and he totally likes taking care of the boy. When one day Miles and his wife Lucy are in front of their door, they only have faint memories of the couple whose boy was born on the same day as Theo and who was also taken to an incubator. The reason for their visit will shake their lives: the boys were swapped and Theo actually is their biological son. What starts as a friendly encounter, since they all sit in the same boat, quickly turns into the most evil fight no parent would ever like to be in. And just like in war, Miles is willing to use any weapon available to get his boy.

A novel like a roller coaster ride, emotionally challenging and breath-taking, reading it caused me almost a night without sleep since I couldn’t put it away. It is a conflict which is unsolvable, yet, the way it all turns out is unbearable to read and makes you wonder the whole time: could this happen to me, too? What incriminating material would police find if they checked on my computer and mobile phone? And at the same time: this is so absolutely unfair, this cannot be true, but how often do you hear of those stories where institutions are simply wrong and easily fooled?

At the beginning, I was wondering if Maddie’s difficulties of bonding with her son would become the major focus of the novel, quite soon, this shifted when the core problem became known. You cannot say what to do in such a case and just like the protagonists, I would never have expected it all to turn out that way. It is sheer unbelievable how everything that happens is turned against Pete and Maddie, even the most harmless incidents become major reproaches and raise questions about their parenting. It isn’t illogical at all, that is the terrible realisation, from the characters’ point of view, they hardly have any other option than interpreting the signs in this way. It hurts reading it, it really hurts, first and foremost when you look at what the situation does to Pete and Maddie. I guess, at some point, I might have given up had I been in their shoes.

To call it a wonderful read would somehow be awkward, yet, it is a brilliantly crafted novel with a very interesting conflict and, above all, authentic and lively characters who could just be you or me. Even though it is fiction and as a thriller mainly aims at making you feel a cold shiver running down your spine, it is also a novel that makes you ponder a lot.

J.P. Delaney – The Perfect Wife

J.P. Delaney – The Perfect Wife

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.