George Simling has grown up in the city-state of Illyria, an enclave of logic and reason founded as a refuge from the Reaction, a wave of religious fundamentalism that swept away the nations of the 21st century. Yet to George, Illyria's militant rationalism is as close-minded and stifling as the faith-based superstition that dominates the world outside its walls. For George has fallen in love with Lucy. A prostitute. A robot. She might be a machine, but the semblance of life is perfect. And beneath her good looks and real human skin, her seductive, sultry, sluttish software is simmering on the edge of consciousness. To the city authorities robot sentience is a malfunction, curable by periodically erasing and resetting silicon minds. Simple maintenance, no real problem, it’s only a machine. But it’s a problem for George, he knows that Lucy is something more.
Chris Beckett is a university lecturer living in Cambridge. He has written over 20 short stories, many of them originally published in Interzone and Asimov's. In 2009 he won the Edge Hill Short Story competition for his collection of stories, The Turing Test.
©2013 Chris Beckett (P)2013 Audible Ltd
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"SF as it used to be!"
I really enjoyed this. It was a good, solid story with some interesting ruminations on the nature of self awareness and intelligence. This was the first book I've read by Chris Beckett but it won't be the last.
"I am a machine. I am a biological machine."
Illyria is a technocracy close to where historical Illyria existed; a city state that has rejected religion and lives by science and empirical facts, but it requires workers from the surrounding theocracy's to function at its basic levels, but little by little they are replacing the human workers with more advanced robots to eliminate the irrational ideas the migrant workers bring.
All is not well in techno paradise there is dissent in some levels that feel life has become arid and with out humanity while the intelligent robots are developing erratic code, that makes them act outside parameters specified for their function.
Translator George Simling, falls in love with Lucy one of the sex robots a syntec, that are use to provide pleasure, it is and irrational feeling, he is aware how irrational it is but he cannot help himself, Lucy is having problems with her code but is not reporting it and George is pushing her in directions she is not built for, till one day she becomes self aware.
Brilliantly written with great questions and a reich creation of a world that feels too familiar or too realistic, a brave new world where God is the creation of all our problems and its idea infects even binary code, with the irrational need to believe.
Great science fiction that is motivated by questioning religions real dilemmas and by creating societies that are all too human, where magic and belief are understood to be the needs of biology or digital minds.
"history turns full cirlce"
fast pace, good narration, excellent tale, the idea of A.I. becoming truly sentient is not new but well thought through
the holy machine
more of a moral tale really
"ermm not very good not very bad"
This didn't work for me, I felt disconnected from the character, and couldn't really care what happened to them, the world created for them seem too far fetched for me and the main characters switch from one county top another only seemed to confirm this. The sub plot didn't seem to have any point or added anything to the book, I was overall disappointed, though for a daily deal probably got my moneys worth.
"Brilliant story, brilliantly read too."
With the way the writer weaved this story and how it was all so brilliantly interconnected and the many themes he explored and the fantastic narrator and his brilliant range of voices and accents I became totally hooked and eager for more.
The dream sequences, virtual reality worlds, program driven servicing of mans sexual desire, exploration of what is humanity and morality, and self awareness. The fact it deals with ethnic cleansing, and bigotry, and the extremes and sometimes violent expressions of prejudice in religion, and also secular society is both shocking, revealing, and thought provoking. Especially so considering things that are still happening today. Some of the twists are striking especially the recounting of the prostitute which is shocking and touching.
A big pat on the back for Chris Becket for creating a brilliant and engrossing vehicle for all those themes, that have always been around and probably always will be. Definitely a faves author folder now!
The choice to have John Banks narrate was pure genius. he really brought this tale to life and felt totally immersed in this tale.
"Narrator made this for me"
Huge range of voices, all exceptionally well done. Loved every minute.
The story was pretty great too.
"Good time girl makes good. (sort of)"
This is a debut novel from a writer who has honed his craft with short stories and though this could be considered a novella nonetheless it deals with deep and important themes. The nature of self, the role of religion in society, can indeed humankind do without religion (it would seem not....even the resolutely secular society of Illyria has made a religion of it's secularness), maternal love or the lack of it, sexual attraction versus a more deep seated love or affection. I found the presentation and drift of the story clunky at times but didn't let that detract from an important book. The narrator's point of view means that sometimes the listener is taken down alleys that may not seem important at first but with reflection prove influential on the tale. There was slightly too much in the way of travelogue details however I think it's the sign of a good author that I feel affection and concern about a machine.
I compare this book to Chris Beckett's second novel "Dark Eden" which again dealt with similar themes though showed more maturity and roundedness. Again the nature of religion is dealt with in the later book, though he explores more the beginnings of patriarchy on belief.
I gasped with horror when Lucy met her 'end', the thought that I would hear no more of her was sorrowful as I'd got to like her.
I look forward to more of Chris Beckett's novels. He deals with big and important themes, themes which are relevant to all of us, regardless of whether we 'believe' in a religion or not. This is important stuff.
"fantastically well read, awful story."
The story is really predictable, but also not well written. It's over sexualised at every turn, like a 90s anime sci-fi, adding nothing to the atmosphere or plot. There are several characters with different accents in this book, hence an excuse for the exceptional narrator to do his thing. Apart from that, this book has nothing going for it. The concept itself isn't bad, but its executed very badly.
"Not what I was expecting"
I love futuristic books. This failed to engage me and I won't be bothering with any more
"The trouble with SF"
The book is quite remarkable until the great escape scene. Afterwards it turns to be a dull manga written by a mad japanese teenager. The author moves seemingly uncomfortably in his world and has no patience to go on describing the very unlikely scenes one after another. I kept on listening exclusively for the brilliant narrator but all in all it was a total waste of time.
You see, this is the trouble with SF. Human mind is perhaps unable to create alien worlds or future scenarios for ours own without making incoherencies. This novel is full of logical twists and weak details, it falls apart at the first breeze. I always experience a childish aspect of SF novels, which means not playfulness but inmaturity. Or you accept the fact of finding a not perfectly imagined world as a scene and go on dealing with it or stop reading SF. I will do stop listening SF for the rest of my life. Not for Chris Beckett, I swear. But this book helped me a lot not to try again.
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