RogerBW's Blog

You've Got Murder, Donna Andrews 10 September 2014

SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, is worried about her programmer: he seems to have vanished, and the records she can find aren't helping. So she turns for help to the two humans who are aware of her nature.

This is a book about technical things, and I'm a fairly technical person, so believe me when I say: the author didn't drop the ball. Sure, she didn't get everything right, but the errors didn't annoy me; indeed, Andrews offers a charmingly naïve vision of the future of the Internet that now sounds rather better than what we've ended up with.

The mystery plot is more procedural than anything else, dealing mostly with the acquisition of information rather than its processing; there are some slightly surprising and rewarding twists, particularly in the matter of character actions, but mostly it works out the way one would expect. It's interrupted by long divagations (mostly in Turing's voice) on the nature of AI and consciousness, the evolution of a set of ethics, whether humour or sleep are necessary preconditions for a truly "human" being, and indeed what term one should use to suggest a being that's not biologically human, but is not merely sapient, since it has feelings as well as thoughts.

Now obviously this stuff is old hat to most readers of science fiction, but it's unusual to see it in a detective story, and I at least rather enjoyed this obviously amateur but reasonably well-informed take on the field. (There's perhaps slightly too little existential terror from the people who discover Hopper's personality, but then they're not experts.) John W. Campbell supposedly defined an interesting alien as something that "thinks as well as a human, but differently", and Andrews has done an excellent job of that here.

There are some oddities relating to Hopper's attempt to download herself into a much smaller system, but they're workable in the context of the story. Like What's a Girl Gotta Do, though, this story really relies on you getting on with its protagonist; if you find the first few chapters, entirely in Hopper's voice, boring, then you probably shouldn't bother with the rest. I enjoyed it rather a lot.

Followed by Click Here For Murder.

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Series: Turing Hopper | Next in series: Click Here for Murder

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