Thursday, October 04, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

After Neill Bassett's father committeed suicide ten years ago, he left behind thousands of pages of secret journals that are as detailed as they are banal.  There are no hidden revelations or secret thoughts in these journals. They are simply the day-to-day accounts of a country doctor.  However, these journals provide the perfect ingredients for an artificial intelligence project that Amiante Systems is working on.  As not only the owner of the journals but also as a reasonable interpreter of them, Neill manages to parlay his father's legacy into a job with Amiante. Outside of work, Neill struggles to navigate various relationships following his divorce soon after his honeymoon.  He can't seem to connect with anyone except for the artificial version of his father that Amiante is cranking out.  As "Dr. Bassett" becomes more complex, Neill begins to trick himself into thinking that he can find closure with his father through his interactions with the computer.  He just has to find the missing ingredient that will pull everything together.

I thought this book had a clever premise.  It felt very timely considering the fact that more and more of our relationships are carried out through electronic devices.  It becomes harder and harder to establish authenticity and real connection.  As Neill discovers, it can be easier to to engage with artificial intelligence than deal with the complexities of real people.  That being said, the book lacked genuine feeling for me.  I found it difficult to connect with the characters. (in much the same way that they have difficulty connecting with each other)  I think Hutchins had some really good ideas but the whole thing just didn't gel for me.  Something was missing and I can't quite put my finger on it.

BOTTOM LINE:  Not recommended. A great idea that didn't quite get there. I think most readers may have a hard time getting through the story although Hutchins does have a lot of clever and interesting ideas.

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