RogerBW's Blog

Access Denied, Donna Andrews 14 December 2014

2004 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, follows up on a lead to an old enemy.

Another step away from SF and towards cosy detective fiction. A credit card belonging to the main villain of the previous book gets used in an apparent case of fraud, and Turing and her human allies follow up.

Unfortunately it's not very interesting cosy detective fiction. If you've never previously encountered credit card fraud I suppose it might have something to offer, but it's a very drawn-out investigation of a remarkably simple case. There's absolutely no progress in the larger plot; all the things left unresolved at the end of Click Here for Murder are still unresolved now. This was a great disappointment to me, but the story in itself is still enjoyable.

Claudia, the private eye from Miami who appeared first in that book, is back and welcome, but there are also several new minor characters (a lawyer and a computer techie) who get relatively little narrative time, so remain mostly undeveloped, while at the same time distracting from the long-term characters of Maude, Tim and Turing.

KingFischer is almost absent here, which is a shame as it's one of the more interesting of the proto-AI community. Is this a lead-up to its breakout into full sapience? Hard to tell, but in this book it's another frustrating distraction.

On the other hand, when we do get the three old principals, things start to shine. Maude is trying to carve out some personal life from her two jobs; Tim is making a real go of his private detective work now that he's got over the noir image; and Turing is still trying to understand the human world. There's some good material on surveillance, safety and privacy, though it never quite gets past the assumption of good faith: several of the discussions here could be shut down with "yes, we know you are a benevolent AI, but there will be others some day and we don't want to trust them before we get to know them even though we now trust you".

There's even less actual computing in this book than in the last: no MMORPGs, just straight-up surveillance and investigation, with some remote cameras but that's about it.

Followed by Delete All Suspects.

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