C. D. Tavenor’s first novel is a good one, in what is due to be a centuries-spanning series (that’s in terms of the writing, not the publication – unless there’s something Tavenor isn’t telling us..!).
The characters – especially the development of the SI (‘synthetic intelligence’, rather than AI – ‘artificial intelligence’) from ‘infancy’ – were really well-rounded and handled. The world building was totally believable, though this is often the way with a near-future setting. The storyline structure and the pace of writing, which is of a high standard, kept me reading.
What is a soul and where does one begin / reside? What is the (or even a) measure of humanity, or human-ness? What rights does, or should, a non-human sentient being have? It’s a deftly presented mix of philosophy (particularly Descartes’s ‘cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think therefore I am’), ethics and sociology, all wrapped up in the perfect genre for these things; SF. It’s very timely, too; AI’s are at the current cutting edge of technology – and many of the questions posed in ‘First of Their Kind’ will need real-life answers, before we can progress much further in that field.
Another example of how ‘current’ the novel is, is the protagonist’s use of the pronoun ‘they’, instead of ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’. It’s obviously an unsurprising choice for an SI to make, considering they have no genitalia, no gendered upbringing or societal gender influence, and they wish to be referred to as a person, rather than an object / thing (‘it’). However, as this is obviously also a reference to third persons multiple, it could be a little confusing on the page at times; my mind kept snapping from the expected more-than-one-person ‘they’, to the single entity ‘they’, and this unfortunately distracted me from the novel on a few occasions.
Other than that very minor issue, which is as much my issue as one caused by the pronoun choice (I am simply not in the habit of it and imagine younger readers would have less of a cognitive problem), it was a cracking read and I am very much looking forward to the next installment.
Thought impossible, but Dr. Wallace Theren has pushed the boundaries of computational science, creating an artificial mind capable of conscious thought. Naturally, his creation faces a harsh world bent on using it, exploiting it, or destroying it. If the first synthetic intelligence is to survive its early years, it’ll need friends, but more importantly, it’ll need a family.
And together, they’ll need to show their enemies they’re worth saving . . . or fearing.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.