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The Unseen World: A Novel by Liz Moore

The Unseen World: A Novel

by Liz Moore

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Fortunately, I read this book long after I read the publisher blurb so I forgot most of the plot and character description, which tells too much while not giving any hint of the complexity of the characters, especially David, the father. I especially like the way we learn about David mostly through his daughter's eyes, in segments that aren't chronological. The author interweaves past, present and future brilliantly and makes a 'quiet' book compulsively readable. For the record, I feel for blurb writers who have to reduce a great book to a paragraph that 'sells' - and is probably given very little time to do it. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Human beings have long been fascinated by artificial intelligence, creating a computer that can learn from us and even one day outstrip us. We worry about the effects of something like this and whether it would turn against us but even that concern doesn't slow us down from pursuing its creation. The fact that a technology like this could be used to capture something of a person, something of their very essence, especially once they themselves are nothing but a memory is incredibly enticing. Liz Moore's novel, The Unseen World, is set in the 1980s, when the idea of computers learning and expanding from that learning was much newer than it is now, the 2010s when technology had advanced well beyond the initial exploration of this idea, and the future when the technological frontier could be anything, but it is not just a novel about technology. It is a novel about people and relationship, love and learning, and the deliberate and accidental mistakes and betrayals that make people so very human.

Ada Sibelius is a child prodigy. Conceived by a surrogate and raised by her single father, David, she grows up in the local university's computer science lab where her father is a respected professor and researcher working on the artificial intelligence program ELIXIR, a language processing program. She is homeschooled by her father and her only friends are the graduate students at the lab and her father's close friend and colleague, Diana Liston. She adores her father, enjoys their intellectual fencing, and doesn't realize the extent of her unorthodox upbringing until the year she is twelve, when David starts showing signs of Alzheimer's. As David's condition deteriorates, Ada ultimately moves in with Liston and her sons and goes to school for the first time, having to learn what regular teenage life is like. Alternating with the story of David's decline and young Ada's sudden immersion in a "normal" life that is completely foreign to her is the story of adult Ada trying to solve the puzzle that David left her and uncover the myriad of secrets that bubble up as she tries to figure out who her father really was, not just to her, to his students, and to his pet project, but who he was in a wider sense. In searching for answers, Ada will also come to understand and know herself and others in her life better too.

This is a very slow moving novel and there's a lot of technical information that might cause the non-technical reader to stumble, especially early on as the story is just starting to build. But once the reader is invested in Ada, they will follow her in her journey, eager to understand the truth about David, wanting to know what he left her just as much as she does. This is very much a literary novel, an exploration into identity, how technology preserves or changes that identity, and the messiness and mistakes of human connection. The characters are not only smart, they are at least as interesting as the enigmas they all hope to solve. There are codes and puzzles woven throughout the novel, some obvious (trying to crack David's code), some less so (like Ada's puzzling out how to be a normal kid and have normal relationships) and smart readers will enjoy following the many trails to discovery and the ultimate unveiling at the end. There are touches of mystery and sci-fi combined with personal, human reality here that all come together in one masterfully done literary work. ( )
  whitreidtan | Dec 13, 2018 |
I enjoyed this story of Ada, a young girl raised by a single "geeky" father who we eventually find out has a secret past. Ada's father, David, runs the computer lab at the local college and has programmed Elixir, a prototype AI computer program. Both Ada and David tell Elixir their deepest thoughts and secrets, and when David's alzheimer first hospitalizes him and eventually robs him of the ability to communicate, Ada needs to decrypt a puzzle that David had given her as a youngster. A bit geeky, but also some interesting character development. ( )
  CYGeeker | Sep 6, 2018 |
odd, yet moving, relationship between father and daughter ( )
  rosies | Jul 5, 2018 |
This one took awhile to get really good. I was only mildly interested (and kept thinking she needed a better editor to get to the goods sooner than she did). Then, I hit page 192, and the story took off and blossomed. My only hope is that future readers can be as patient as I was. The patience will pay off, though. I promise. The only reason why I did not give it 5 stars was because it took too long to grip me and not let go. ( )
  ppmarkgraf | May 5, 2018 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393241688, Hardcover)

A heartbreaking and moving story about a daughter’s quest to discover the truth about her father’s hidden past.

Ada Sibelius is raised by David, a single father and head of a computer science lab in Boston. Homeschooled, she accompanies her loving father― brilliant, eccentric, socially inept―to work every day. By twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David’s mind begins to falter and his mysterious past comes into question. When her father moves into a nursing home, Ada is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. She embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. Eventually, Ada pioneers a type of software that enables her to make contact with her past and to reconcile the man she thought she knew with the truth.

Praised for her ability to create quirky and unforgettable characters, Liz Moore has written a piercing story of a daughter’s quest to restore the legacy of the father she desperately loves.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 13 Jan 2016 18:44:22 -0500)

"The moving story of a daughter's quest to discover the truth about her beloved father's hidden past. Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David's mysterious history comes into question. When his mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David's colleagues. Soon after she embarks on a mission to uncover her father's secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. What Ada discovers on her journey into a virtual universe will keep the reader riveted until The Unseen World's heart-stopping, fascinating conclusion"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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Average: (4.05)
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