A novel by William Hertling
(2013, William Hertling)
Singularity, book 3
A young woman with the ability to manipulate the internet through
her implant is drawn into a plot by a malicious AI to take over the
Read November 25th to
December 8th, 2016, in ebook
I really enjoyed this novel, from
beginning to end, as the main character grew and explored her powers.
The author did a great job of interweaving AI rights and security, based
on human fears of being taken over, with human malaise about having jobs
taken away. I highly recommend this book.
This is book three of a series, and I have not read books one or two. However,
although there is a backstory with some of the main characters, enough
information is gleaned from various conversations and thoughts that I
didn’t need it to enjoy this story. On the other hand, my interest is
piqued, so that I’ll head back to read the earlier books eventually, I’m sure.
This story follows Catherine, born into the world before implants,
but having gained an implant when she was a baby. This makes her unique
in the world, as it appears that her implant does not have the safeties
that more modern implants have. When she connects with other peoples’
implants, for sex as an example, it hurts them. It seems that she can
connect with other people even without their permission, and she can
manipulate the net in a way that nobody else can.
She also has
sympathy for the Artificial Intelligences that are the norm in this
future. It appears that in book one, Leon and Mike created the first
true AI, and there was a revolution, which ended with restrictions to AI
evolution. In the meantime, AIs have taken over most manufacturing jobs,
and are even able to open up some shops. Many exist without physical
form, but some appear as robots. Most people have no jobs, but get
social security due to AI payments from the jobs they took. So they
spend their time in leisure, which means drugs and online games and
social media. But Cat wants to do something with her life, and feels
held back by her roommates. She practices karate, which will give her an
advantage in the later parts of the story.
It’s a garbage robot
that Cat watches and saves from a human street gang. Upset about her
room-mate stealing her sex partner, because the woman can link properly
with her implant, Cat storms from their house and comes across the AI
being beaten. She manages to overload the gang members implants,
effectively killing most of them.
Now a murderer with apparently
illegal implant powers, she goes on the run, and ends up on the west
coast of the US, where she learns more about the powers given to her by
her implant. Hungry and tired, she falsifies her identity to steal
payment cards. Eventually, she falsifies transactions to steal expensive
jewelry, and gets away with it. Careful to pawn it slowly, the money
from the diamonds will last her the rest of the story.
is something more sinister going on, as Tony and Mike are killing
people, absorbing memories for their employer, an AI who has grown
beyond his programming, illegally, and plans to take over the country,
if not the world. Adam has taken over the city of Tucson, reducing any
people there to mindless drones, and all AIs under his control. He’s
placed a massive firewall around the city, so that nobody knows or
understands what he’s done. The firewall prevents him from seeing
outside the city, though, which is why he needs the memories that Tony
and Slim are downloading from people outside.
Leon and Mike, on
the other hand, are still in the business of doing research. They had
instituted the checks and balances that created AI society, but are
worried about strange disappearances, and anti-AI protests in Washington
and elsewhere. Once the protests reach the AI institute, they manage to
escape and go on a road trip. It doesn’t take long to go sour, though,
as people recognize them and eventually destroy their car. So they
contact an AI ally, Shizoko, who helps them escape. I liked the way the
AI ratings are developed, so that AIs police themselves. A higher rating
gives them more power, and their morality and reliability determine
their rating -as judged by other AIs. It’s a system that makes sense.
On the other hand, it also makes sense that given the restrictions
imposed on AIs, that they’d feel some resentment. The indignation that
Leon and Mike feel when they discover that the AI community knows of
several security breaches but didn’t tell anybody is reflected back at
them even by the most helpful AI, in asking why they would help the
species that enslaved them. It seems that most AIs live in a completely
different society in parallel with humans and the physical realm.
Cat, meanwhile, in seducing a man at a bar and sharing drugs and sex
with him, discovers that she can manipulate other people using her
implant. She can control what people do, and see through their eyes. As
she’s discovered by Tony and Slim, this happens just in time, even
though the two men don’t have implants. She used shopkeepers to watch
over the watchers, until she can get away. Adam then sends in a militia
team to find her, which she manages to repel using net feedback and
Adam saves her, and hides her away, until she
escapes on her own. They all converge in Tucson, where Cat outsmarts the
AI, with the help from the militia survivors, Leon and Mike and even to
a certain extent Tony and Slim. On the way, some strange things happen
to all of them. Mike is healed from a wound by smart nanobots, and when
he dies, Cat severs his head and regrows him using some living tissue.
He doesn’t even realize that he’s no longer human. Infiltrating the
university computer lab where Adam resides, Cat transfers herself
through the wires of the building to confront him, eventually destroying
him in a climactic battle, even as the humans fight his physical AI
The plot description doesn’t do justice to the feel of
the book. I loved the way the author inserted all sorts of programming
and tech talk to describe the implant interfaces, as well as how Cat
uses them to further her survival. The AI plot, while more overreaching
and with a doomsday scenario built in (Adam is behind the anti-AI
protests, and wants to kill the President and eventually take his place,
and more), is basically setting, and the reason for Cat to get involved.
I found myself wanting to get back to Cat every time the point of view
changed. I found her to be a compelling character, who grew smarter and
stronger as the story went on.
There is another book in this
series, as well, but my understanding is that the trilogy is more about
the world, and does not contain most of the same characters. I’m very
interested in reading the first and third books in the trilogy.
The idea of implants makes a lot of sense. In the books that I've
written (hopefully soon to be published), my characters also have
implants, which allow them to gather information and talk mind-to-mind.
My concepts are not as far-reaching as those of this author, which goes
to show how people see the obvious future differently.
As an aside, this book was published by an independent author not under
a publishing company, so all sales come through word of mouth. I like to
support these independent authors, and strongly recommend this novel.