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Recursion by Tony Ballantyne
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I thought this first novel by Tony Ballantyne a well conceived and written novel, woven from three separate story-lines (each featuring separate characters from different time-lines) into a finished tapestry. It is a first novel, so there are a few rough spots - it's difficult to fully engender yourself with some of the supporting character's motivations, however the main protagonists of each story can mostly carry the narrative forward. A bit more character development and the author would be fine in this regard.

The back-story centers around the "Watcher" - which you find to be a very powerful AI that shapes events to improve humanity. Without giving too much away, each story ultimately falls back on the creation and consequences of having a consciousness shaping human destiny. The other element is the development of VNM - Von Neumann Machines - self-replicating machines that can quickly convert matter into more machines used to effect change (usually to build something the maker has devised). If you're familiar with the Fermi Paradox, it's used as a possible theory regarding the "Watcher"s origins and much of the conclusion is supported by its context.

I came across this book in a book bin at Goodwill - the back cover summary enticed me to buy and read so kudos to the marketing department at Bantam Spectra. However the front cover did nothing for me and if anything I almost passed it by (if I hadn't recognized the publisher I probably wouldn't have picked it up as SciFi). Yeah I know I'm being picky but what else are reviews for? ( )
  johnnyapollo | Dec 7, 2010 |
ZB7 ( )
  mcolpitts | Aug 3, 2009 |
I suspect that Ballantyne started with an interesting resolution to the Fermi Paradox and worked through the implications from there, and this core idea is quite interesting. The problem is in the execution: with powerful superhuman intelligences calling the tune, the main characters (who are all rather disconnected from the world to begin with) are mostly spending their time discovering how helpless and irrelevant they really are. I never really connected with the main characters, and finished the book because I wanted to find out what was really going on rather than because I cared about what happened to them. A good ideas book, not much of a story. ( )
  slothman | Jul 29, 2009 |
either the author was confused, or it was me. ( )
1 vote macha | Jun 27, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553589288, Mass Market Paperback)

It is the twenty-third century. Herb, a young entrepreneur, returns to the isolated planet on which he has illegally been trying to build a city–and finds it destroyed by a swarming nightmare of self-replicating machinery. Worse, the all-seeing Environment Agency has been watching him the entire time. His punishment? A nearly hopeless battle in the farthest reaches of the universe against enemy machines twice as fast, and twice as deadly, as his own–in the company of a disarmingly confident AI who may not be exactly what he claims…

Little does Herb know that this war of machines was set in motion nearly two hundred years ago–by mankind itself. For it was then that a not-quite-chance encounter brought a confused young girl and a nearly omnipotent AI together in one fateful moment that may have changed the course of humanity forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:39 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Ballantyne provides a highly imaginative and enjoyable venture into a future era of conflict between mankind and the artificial intelligences and cities and planets it has carelessly fabricated.

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