Gill's World, by James Murdo - 4 Stars
Gill’s World just about makes it into the remarkable reads category because it’s out there. Not just out there in the sense of ancient space vessels cruising around the galaxy, looking to patch up the cracks of chaos but also because the perspective is unique. Most of it is written from the point of view of a computer system, with secondary characters, sub-systems, named in binary (01001011!0) and holding the subjugated ambition to announce themselves and lay claim to their right to be treated as living beings, not disposable tools. In Star Trek, the character Data wanted to bridge the gap to become alive and be human (see Pinocchio) and had the introspection of Hamlet, but these sub systems are scared to voice their thoughts because of the ruthlessly dominant artificial intelligence that sits at the top of their pecking order. It can only learn humility and the value of life if it experiences humility with sufficient shock – and boy is it about to begin the process of questioning itself. The machine intelligence and sense of expanses of time in this is so well written. There’s no rust in space, just plenty of pebble strikes, but the sense of corporeal form and mind being worn down by the expanse of time, made even worse because the AI can complete most logical operations in a nanosecond, is colossal. The reader has respect for the old hulk, the old Rolling Stones band member. There’s contrast with an organic species too, as their fates intersect, which also has a fascinating angle on life (and symbiosis), so both are discovering themselves and their true predicament, hidden away from their understanding for so much time. The story explores the struggle between good and evil, issues of the value of life, right to life, conscious awareness, whether winning at all costs is worth the price, then small scale in space and time versus the incredibly large scale across unimaginable stretches of time that brings with it the ennui of near-immortal eternities of existence. I’m glad I read it. It was not normal – and in fiction, that’s an accolade.