Completed 7/3/2017, reviewed 7/8/2017
I’ve read five out of the six nominees for the Hugo award for this year, and this is the first book I loved. The story is about Lovelace, an AI who gets transferred out of her ship after a complete shutdown and reboot and into her own synthetic body. Now she must learn to navigate existence as an individual. With her is Pepper, an engineer with a disturbing past. As Lovelace’s journey unfolds, we also delve into Pepper’s past, learning about her harsh childhood and her previous experiences with spaceship AI.
This book is a standalone sequel to Chamber’s previous book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. While Long Way took us on an adventure with the crew of a spaceship, this book follows the spaceship’s AI after being excised from the ship. The only other character from the previous book is Pepper, who we only met briefly. Rather than being the continuing adventures of the ship and its crew, this is a side story but in the same universe.
From the moment I began this book, I loved it. I found the struggle of Lovey trying to get adjusted to her new body fascinating and heartbreaking. In the last book, Lovey was in love with one of the crew, but in her reboot, she lost all memory of her relationship. Now she starts over with a clean slate. In addition to learning to be an individual, she also has to keep a low profile. There are a lot of laws about AIs, and moving one into its own body is illegal. Lovey takes a new name Sidra and tries to assimilate into society as a person, not just an AI. Fortunately, she has Pepper to help guide her through life.
Pepper is a very interesting and engaging character. Interspersed between Sidra’s chapters, we follow Pepper’s story. She started life as a clone, working in a factory-like setting reclaiming discarded electronics. She escapes and is saved by a shuttle’s AI, Owl. Through this relationship, we see how she learned about AIs and spaceships. It gives us an outsider’s perspective on AIs to juxtapose with Sidra’s first person experience. In addition, the two story lines give us two characters who must learn to find meaning to their existence and a sense of identity.
What I like about this book is that it is character studies in space. It’s about relationships without being soapy, yet still has an ending that might just make you shed a tear. At the same time, it takes place in space without being a space opera. This was just the book that I needed after reading a couple of dry space operas that I didn’t enjoy. It’s sweet without being saccharine.