Bao: A Novel

Narrated by: Paul Nyhart
Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

After being strong-armed into selling his tech company, Myron, a world-renowned computer programmer, slips into a depression he fears he won’t get out of. Overcome by the rapid beats in his chest, the anxiety locking up his arms and legs, and the voices telling him he’s physically ill, he realizes he’s nearing a breaking point...until a familiar foe - the company that sent him into his crisis - offers him a curious opportunity: the chance to build a human being.

The company needs him to finish what they could only begin. Myron needs something to make him ignore the thoughts telling him he could end. While Myron confronts a force he’s imagined to always be bigger than him, the thought that “all is not well” becomes quieted through his interactions with his new creation, Bao, who has some quirks of his own. Bao looks exactly like any other middle-aged white man but with one peculiarity: He only speaks Chinese.

As Myron battles an old foe trying to act friendly, Bao begins to understand what makes him unique. One must drive without knowing where the road ends. The other must jump without knowing how far is the fall.

What will one human do to get back the life he thought he’d lost? How far will one robot go to become human?

Faced with ending the life he created or suffering through one he wishes he could forget, Myron overcomes his fears to discover a strength he never knew was present. A discovery that teaches him the true meaning of precious.

©2019 Paul Nyhart (P)2019 Paul Nyhart

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Bao is a quirky, yet touching story of humanity

Bao is told in the 1st person by a brilliant, yet neurotic and troubled programmer. The author and narrator, Paul Nyhart, tells the story that is at times hilarious, touching and tense. There is a plot quirk that causes Bao, the artificial being programmed by the main character to speak Mandarin instead of English. I am not conversant with Mandarin, so I am unsure if the pronunciation and inflection was correct - but Paul Nyhart shifts between his 1st person narrative and Mandarin and he is effective in his acting. This is a different android story, in that it is also a story of the creator's journey to a greater humanity. There is humor and action and great dialog. I enjoyed this book and would welcome more stories of Bao - however this book does well as a single story with no sequel. Paul's narration is clear and he does not try to give other characters voices and accents, which is fine with me and altogether fitting for a 1st person novel. Well done!

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The business

This was an amazing experience to listen to and it was rich with intellectual writing. The performance was smooth and warm, it really allowed me to sink into the visual picture in my mind that it created for me. This story has an amazing way of contracting fantasy with reality by the way that it subliminally hints as to what is really at our doorstep in the near future. This author and storyteller gave me an experience that I think about daily. I recommend this book to anyone with an open mind to fantasy but to anyone that also has an open mind to what the future may bring.

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    4 out of 5 stars

An fun, original take on the sentient robot genre.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

This review contains a minor spoiler for something very early in the book. Marking it anyways even though it's the sort of thing I wouldn't be surprised to see in a back-cover summary.

Disclaimer up front : I'm a programmer. I've written terrible AIs and flaws regarding the way computers and AI are treated tend to jump out at me. With that said, there was very little here I'd take offense at - This is a fun, solidly written robot story that manages to stay focused on its central themes and doesn't wear out its welcome or go on weird sociopolitical tangents. First contact with an alien intelligence, whether it's an actual alien, lost tribe or robot is always a fun setup and having Bao speak a common language that the protagonist does not is a clever twist. The only thing that stood out to me as irritating was the use of a frame story which didn't really support the narrative and lead to the narrator being oddly introspective at a couple times that didn't seem warranted, but programmers can be incredibly neurotic at times so it's not completely out of place.