The Robots of Gotham: A rough couple of weeks in the Windy City

The Robots of Gotham by Todd McAultyThe Robots of Gotham by Todd McAultyThe Robots of Gotham by Todd McAulty

The Robots of Gotham (2018) is the debut novel from Todd McAulty, and though it’s chock-full of robots, only one of them seems to actually be from Gotham, and the entirety of the book’s nearly-700 pages take place in Chicago. So it’s a slightly misleading title, but there are more than enough explosions, stealth missions, and metal-clad behemoths to make up for it.

In a nutshell, there are humans — mostly part of the Venezuelan army, though the people themselves comprise a multitude of nationalities, and there are two different factions representing American blocs — and there are intelligent machines — some of whom are from the Kingdom of Manhattan, some of whom are unaffiliated, and some of whom aren’t supposed to exist. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially since any one of those groups seem happy to shoot at Barry for any reason, and this isn’t the opening salvo of a war but rather just a small part of a much larger campaign that’s been waged in the four years since the first machine coup of a human government, back in 2079, which quickly lead to the collapse of most human governments in favor of machines.

Our hero is Barry Simcoe, Canadian businessman and expert negotiator, newly arrived in Chicago as dictated by his job for a software company called Ghost Impulse. Unfortunately, Barry got to Chicago just a few days before everything went haywire and the city became an open battleground between various factions vying for control over the city. Barry’s innate compassion for all living things brings him to the attention of both the Venezuelan force and a representative of the Kingdom of Manhattan, setting into motion a chain of events that will change his life, and possibly life of all kinds, forever.

Thankfully, Barry’s online journal entries detailing his almost-unbelievable experiences during three weeks in March of 2083 are intercut with publically-available blog posts from Paul the Pirate, a wisecracking Thought Machine who likes fishing in Jamaica and speaking out against bigots of any type. Paul’s a neat guy, from the sound of things, and his insights into the conflicts between humans and machines, information about different gradients of intelligent machines, and commentary on the conflicts between factions of machines, provide much-needed context for what Barry’s dealing with and why. (Within The Robots of Gotham, Barry subscribes to and enjoys Paul’s posts, but Paul is completely separate from and uninvolved with Barry’s actions.)

In short order, the hotel Barry is staying at is evacuated by the aforementioned Venezuelans, he’s nearly killed by an American Union mech, he’s nearly killed while trying to save the life of a Venezuelan corporal, he negotiates the repair of a badly damaged Star Wars-quoting Thought Machine named Nineteen Black Winter, Black Winter repays the favor by hooking Barry up with some very interesting information about the Kingdom of Manhattan and what the Venezuelans are doing to Chicago, a Russian medic working with the Venezuelans taps Barry for help with a clandestine medical problem, and Barry gets his hands on some very top-secret American tech while very nearly getting killed. Also, he adopts a dog and awkwardly flirts with two different ladies, creating an unwelcome and beyond farcical pseudo-love triangle. Again, it’s a lot, especially when a supposedly uncrackable coded phrase is introduced early on, which completely stymies the characters for no reason that I could discern; their repeated misinterpretations of the message rapidly became frustrating, especially because even though Black Winter has access to literally incredible stores of information, the reader is meant to think he doesn’t know the first thing about astronomy, or even at the very least, have access to an equivalent of Google.

Barry’s generally no superman; his skill is with words, not pistols or incendiary devices, and more than once his life is saved because he’s willing to build relationships with people and machines. Whether he’s traipsing through a hotel in search of stray dogs that need food and water, slipping through the shadows of the Field Museum and saying hi to Sue, or stealing some ridiculously high-tech American field equipment and then using that equipment to navigate the cavernous tunnels beneath Chicago, McAulty keeps Barry firmly grounded within a realistic scope of capability. He’s also very Canadian, providing his own welcome commentary on the often over-militarized and troublesome Americans who contributed more than their fair share to the currently-balkanized state of the world. It’s near the end of The Robots of Gotham, when a high-stakes heist takes place during a fancy dress party, that his middle-aged businessman persona is eclipsed by the demands of espionage, and his legerdemain and skullduggery strain the boundaries of belief.

On the whole, the book didn’t quite feel balanced, and I sometimes felt like I was reading the script for a video game — the primary quest-giver would dictate a goal for Barry to achieve, he would exit the hotel/base and perform certain tasks, then return to base for a sitrep and debrief; the quest-giver would dictate a new goal, Barry would leave in pursuit of that goal, etc. There were a lot of questions left unanswered and details left untouched, including that coded phrase, leaving the door wide open for further books. But McAulty’s prose churns forward relentlessly, propelling Barry from one dangerous situation to the next, and anyone familiar with Chicago will recognize and appreciate his dedication to making the city feel as real as possible. I’m hoping that subsequent books will provide more insight into the machine communities and their interactions with humans.

Published on June 19, 2018. A thrilling adventure in a world one step away from total subjugation by machines. After long years of war, the United States has sued for peace, yielding to a brutal coalition of nations ruled by fascist machines. One quarter of the country is under foreign occupation. Manhattan has been annexed by a weird robot monarchy, and in Tennessee, a permanent peace is being delicately negotiated between the battered remnants of the U.S. government and an envoy of implacable machines. Canadian businessman Barry Simcoe arrives in occupied Chicago days before his hotel is attacked by a rogue war machine. In the aftermath, he meets a dedicated Russian medic with the occupying army, and 19 Black Winter, a badly damaged robot. Together they stumble on a machine conspiracy to unleash a horrific plague—and learn that the fabled American resistance is not as extinct as everyone believes. Simcoe races against time to prevent the extermination of all life on the continent . . . and uncover a secret that America’s machine conquerors are desperate to keep hidden.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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5 comments

  1. Jana,

    Thanks for the great, in-depth review! I especially appreciated that you noticed the care I tried to take to depict a near-future Chicago. Chicagoans care pretty deeply about their city, so I tried to get the details right.

    I also appreciated your critiques, which in general I think are spot on. Your comment that “I sometimes felt like I was reading the script for a video game” made me laugh out loud. Fair cop! I tried hard to keep the narrative from feeling too episodic, too mission-oriented, but in the end I think I could have done better. You’re the only reviewer (so far) to pick up on that flaw. I’m working hard to give the next book a less familiar structure.

    One thing I did puzzle over though, your comment on “a supposedly uncrackable coded phrase is introduced early on, which completely stymies the characters for no reason that I could discern… , the reader is meant to think he doesn’t know the first thing about astronomy.” The only coded phrase I could think of in the book is the Bodner-Levitt Extermination, which they eventually do puzzle out. Which one did you mean?

    In any case, great enjoyed your comments, and thanks again for devoting so much effort to my first novel.

    • Hello, Mr. McAulty!

      Thank you for your feedback, which I genuinely do appreciate. I tend to play video games in my spare time, which is why I think I picked up on that familiar structure–it wasn’t necessarily a critique, but simply an observation. I’ll be very interested to see what you do with the next book’s structure.

      The coded phrase I was thinking of was part of the Bodner-Levitt Extermination, but what I had in mind were the phrases involving Vega, “the seventh day of the seventh month,” and “Follow the dog.” Those were like giant blinking neon signs for me! I was reading an uncorrected ARC, though, so if the significance of those particular phrases was resolved by the end of the finished novel, I will adjust my review accordingly. (While keeping any potential spoilers in mind, of course.)

    • Trey /

      I read it and enjoyed it a lot. Partly for the world building (because it avoided the irritating trope of super AI going immediately for human extermination) and for Barry’s actions – he makes friends. Yes, when push comes to shove, he fights, but otherwise he talks, de-escalates or runs.
      I liked that a lot.

      Setting it in Chicago was fun since I’ve visited my in-laws there many times. I enjoyed seeing many of the landmarks incorporated into the story.

      Finally I also liked that not everything was explained at the end. Yes, there’s room for a sequel, but it feels ‘real’ in how lots of things are unresolved or unexplained by the end. Always leave ‘em wanting more.

      And a question for Todd if he’s still reading – do you play text/choose your own adventure games? In some ways The Robots of Gotham reminded me of that. For me it’s a feature not a bug, but I think that feel could have come from its serial development at the read-alouds at the book store.
      Anyway, I enjoyed it and will acquire a hard copy once my budget allows it (Houston Public Library is how I read it).

      • Trey,

        Thanks for the great comments. And yes, I do play choose your own adventure games! I spent some time designing online versions for a company in Canada many years ago, in fact.

        I’m a big fan of solitaire role playing games, as well. I reviewed some a few years ago. I don’t know if the comment system watchbots will let me post a link, but here goes:

        https://www.blackgate.com/dark-city-games-reviews/

        Anyway, glad to meet a fellow choose-your-own-adventure gamer! And I’m very happy you enjoyed my book.

  2. John Wordsworth /

    The Robots of Gotham is a Slog
    20 positive reviewers. Wow. Did we read the same book? I found The Robots of Gotham to be more tedious than engaging and transporting. The review on the cover says, “Every page has the fierce readability of early Neal Stephenson.” How early? Certainly not Snow Crash early.

    When I bought the novel I thought it might be something like a graphic novel given its title appears to allude to the Batman stories. But no such luck. Much of the story reads like a DOW Jones report. One robot blogger uses the following phases when referring to himself: “dabble in equities,” “a day trader… tracking giant mutual funds,” and so on. In fact, from what I can gather robots or AIs control the global economy. I confess that I stopped turning pages of this page turner at page 301 because this kind of content didn’t keep my interest. A reader interested robot financiers might enjoy this aspect of the story, kind of like reading the Financial Times in 2083. I was also put off by robots using phrases such as : “fucking equities, mate,” “day-trading bastards,” “place your bets,” “cloak-and-dagger crap,” “that wacky theory your crazy uncle believes,” etc. Sorry but I expect more from robots.

    A problem for me is not only my lack of interest in robot moguls manipulating the world’s political and economic systems, initiating wars and carrying out assassinations, but these types of discussions are superficial. The novel is full of retrospection and speculation but no insights into philosophy, history, ethics, robotics, etc., up to page 301 at least. The story is all surface description (of battles, missions, financial and political events, mini-biographies, etc.) lacking symbolic, metaphorical, and allegorical depth. For example, in chapter XVII the protagonist has a long discussion with a Rupert Innes. The two men talk about politics, economics, wars, and Rupert’s career as an arm dealer, etc. To me, when these discussion occur, the story’s plot flatlines. The purpose of these discussions, it seems, is to provide contextual information. The problems are first that the background information to what is going on globally is mind numbing and second such discussions bring the action of the main story to a stop.

    An important principle to follow when writing about robots is ROBOTS ≠ PEOPLE. Otherwise, one might as well write just about people and forget robots—you know, people like Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other financial and media godfathers. Actually, McAulty should forget about robots and write a similar story without robots, extrapolating on what’s going on in the world—militarily, financially, demographically, in the media, and politically—today. That does seem his area of expertise. Such a novel would be interesting and most likely quite scary. But he would have to become a tough-minded writer and give political correctness a rest.

    A hard sci-fi story should not go beyond suspension of disbelief; otherwise it is simply spectacle such as found in the Transformer movies. The story has sixty ton, forty foot military robots being used in the future. That can be imagined but not extrapolated. I can’t imagine an easier and more expensive target to destroy. Today’s military is all about stealth, not giantism. The Robots of Gotham opens with a battle between a true robot and a robot with a pilot. As far as I’m concerned a robot that has a human pilot isn’t a true robot. A two-legged Drone operated by a human is not a robot. Such a robot is nothing more than a complex gun and the pilot its shooter. Later in the story two robots get into a fistfight and wrestling match. The fight is reminiscent of the robot battles in the Transformers series. One, “Dark of the Moon” even takes place in Chicago as does McAulty’s story. In this sense, both stories are not science fiction but science fantasy. Serious science fiction requires extrapolation from current affairs and some degree of realism and rationality. There is nothing today that suggests militaries will use humanoid robots as weapons. Certainly, the use of autonomous drones, tanks, planes, etc., is possible, but not giant walking, talking robots that look like the gods of the ancient Greeks. A big problem for writers of this genre is that the words cannot compete with cinematic images of robots doing battle as in the Transformers movies. Thus, writers need to focus on what the words can do that movie images cannot. And the writer must keep the audience in mind. McAulty’s story seems directed to a young audience when robots engage in fighting, but then shifts to a different audience when the story reads more like the Wall Street Journal. The audience left out is readers of hard sci-fi about AIs and robotics, the audience that cut its teeth on Isaac Asimov’s stories.

    The main theme of McAulty’s story is robots taking political, economic, and military control of the planet, apparently with an especially nasty entity wanting to either get rid of or enslave humanity. To me this doesn’t make sense, unless robots become humans, not just humanoid machines, which occurs in McAulty’s story. There are even male and female robots, and females are capable of giving birth! I cringe at the idea of male and female robots having sex, which as far as I know doesn’t occur in the story. Showing robots having sex is something Hollywood would do. That is how art is reduced to pornography. And the obsession with sex is an intellectual issue because it is a problem that threatens humanity’s future as much as global warming, a problem, along with a host of others, partly caused overpopulation.

    But first the greatest of roboticists Katherine Slater. Yes, this is political correctness. In “15 Engineers and their Inventions that Defined Robotics” (“Interesting Engineering” online) none of the roboticists are women. McAulty’s story is brimful of political correctness (or perhaps PC derision). For example, the governor of Texas is Saladin Amari. That might happen in London but not in Texas. The president of the U.S. is Bermudez. That extrapolation rings true, but its occurrence will have nothing to do with robots and everything to do with a demographic shift. The hero robot pilot of the battle of Manhattan is Achmed “Duke” Oshana. Clearly this new Duke is John Wayne’s replacement. In any case, Smiths and Jones are history. As is the U.S. for the most part. The dominate nationality is Venezuela. Argentina invaded Manhattan with robots and Venezuela has taken control of Chicago. The U.S. is the bad guy for keeping machine intelligences of any kind out of the country. This extrapolation is inconsistent with the fact that the U.S. is one of the world leaders in robotics. Most likely it’s a comical gab at President Trump’s immigration policies. Thumbing its nose at America isn’t surprising given the book’s author is Canadian. Nevertheless, Argentina and Venezuela taking control of big chunks of the U.S. is a stretch.

    Back to robot sex, Slater created a true humanoid robot that is a she rather than an it and is capable of childbirth. Her name is Duchess, the first machine mother. Her children become big players on the global scene. What makes robot sex possible is “heterogamy.” All we get is a word, not explanation, but I imagine microscopic nuts and bolts along with tiny blueprints being sexually transmitted from one robot to another. Does any of this make sense? Not to me, but I’m just a reader of sci-fi, not a robotics biologist. Such claims are why The Robots of Gotham is sci-fi fantasy, not science fiction, which requires some degree of believable extrapolation.

    The Transformers stories are also sci-fi fantasy. We expect no degree of reason or realism from such stories, only spectacle. But serious science fiction readers expect stories not to go beyond what suspension of disbelief will tolerate and to have a certain degree of coherence. In his novel Mockingbird Walter Tevis’s alpha robot Mr. Spofforth has a human brain. That means Spofforth is not a robot but a human with or trapped in a prosthetic body. Of course, the unavoidable question is why put a human brain in a robot body if the interest is robot intelligence, unless what is being said is that life eternal for humans may not be all that great if its occurs in a totally different form? In many robot stories, as in the real world, humans are responsible for creating a global mess they find themselves in. The logical solution would be to put robots in charge to babysit infantile humanity. Why not just replace humans with robots? Because robots are inherently boring. If they have anything interesting to say, it comes from humans, their creators. In Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod robots are convinced that they have souls thus convert to Chritianity. Actually an Autonomous Artificial Intelligence would not be so irrational to fall for that. In addition, what what’s the point since humans have already fallen for that? The driving force of religion is not reason but emotion. That’s why Romantics wanted a return of medievalism. In addition, MacLeod has Christians committing terrorist acts when in fact the issue at the time of the story’s writing (published 2008) was Islamic terrorist attacks. This is not extrapolation but political correctness, which dominates Great Britain.

    The main threat in McAulty’s story is robots destroying humanity if something isn’t done. I don’t know what that something is because I stopped reading at page 301. However, the question that came to my mind was why save humanity? In the story human society is boring, reduced to the residents of a luxury hotel. In fact, McAulty make robots more interesting than the human characters of the story, except for a Russian named Sergei. What I’m saying is that McAulty doesn’t provide us with human characters that make preserving the human species a priority. I will offer a video game that illustrates what is missing in The Robots of Gotham: Mass Effect 2. That game gives us humans and alien life forms that we care about and want to save from destruction by sentient races of machines. The comparison is unfair given the novel is a first effort and Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece of science fiction produced by a large team of talented artists, programmers, etc. The point is that wanting to save humanity must be justified by making humans really appealing and important—and certainly more important and interesting than robots (though the game does contain some really cool robots and AIs based on hard sci-fi extrapolation). And I must confess that the Mass Effect Series contradicts much of what I say in this review. That’s why it’s a masterpiece. It does everything and does it very well.

    I find no reason for believing AAI robots would intentionally harm humans in the way humans harm humans. That is not to say that complex automated computer systems are without hazard. Programmers lack divine prescience. In fact, Asimov addresses that conundrum in his short story “Runaround” written in 1941! In the 301 pages I read of McAulty’s story I never came across a similar investigation of how AI can go wrong; many are simply bad and hateful; in other words, they behave like people. Essentially, the issue is that the world is more complex than human programmers can imagine. What Asimov addresses is logical problem that occurs within the robot Speedy when the three laws of robotics conflict to prevent him from completing his mission. Speedy’s problem that it is not an AAI. Another example occurs in 2001 a Space Odyssey. The sentient computer HAL misinterprets data, which is quite possible for an AI to do. However, imagine an AI programmed to preserve a ship at any cost. It rightly discovers that human behavior onboard is threatening the ship’s mission. Since its instructions are to ensure the ship reaches its distinction at any cost, it may decide to eliminate the human threat to the mission. There is no ill will. The AI is only following instructions. Imagine that if the ship reaches its destination thousands of human lives will be saved. The logical-ethical problem is should a few innocent, though perhaps misled or overwrought, humans be killed to save many.

    After an asteroid destroyed much of life on earth, humans became the main source of destruction. If robotic entities destroy humanity, it will be because they have been programmed by humans to do so. There is no reason for believing artificial intelligence would not be intelligent enough to want to preserve human life from its greatest threat: itself. The threat of humans is that they are not 100% intelligent. Most aren’t even close. Just consider the billions of human minds programmed by myths, superstitions, and nutty ideologies. They operate just as programmed machines do and are therefore not completely autonomous. Then there are knuckle-dragging imbeciles driven by instincts, emotions, and sensation (all absent in machines) who rob, rape, murder, harm children, and start wars. To be a threat robots require a will to harm, conquered, and destroy—all rooted in a will to power. Such a will is not rooted in reason alone but in emotion and sensation. Reason does not drive a rapist to rape—emotion and sensation do. Yes, if a “male” robot becomes a sensual, emotional, sexual entity then it might rape women, but then you don’t have a robot but a human.

    That robots will become sexual entities and male robots will have penises and female robots will have vaginas is more than what the suspension of disbelief can to tolerate. (Yes, sex bots for humans are a possibility, perhaps already exist, but that is a human obsession. Any thinking robot would consider such behavior irrational and perhaps a degrading use of robots.) This kind of thinking is anthropomorphic, again wanting robots to be humans, not merely humanoids but metal replicas of humans. This does not make robots more interesting and it’s fallacious. There can be no physical or emotional attraction between machines. In the end, that’s a plus. To know why, read Homer’s explanation of the cause of the Trojan War. Furthermore, robots are manufactured, humans are grown, though in the story robots are grown as well, but that’s not scientific extrapolation but imaginary science. The difference between machine and biology cannot be bridged. Imagine planting a robot seed to grow a robot. Yes, that can be imagined—but to what purpose?

    Robots taking over the world is a common theme in sci-fi stories, as in Daniel Wilson’s Robopocalypse. But that’s not going to happen. They can be used for that purpose by humans, but there is no basis for their wanting to do so—at least wanting to do so militarily and destructively. To have robots behave in this manner is to make them humans, and then they are no longer interesting. Humans are the most destructive species on the planet because of their will to power, control, wealth, destruction, and so on. Battles of human wills continue to threaten communities, nations, and global society. Robots are not the problem. The will in people and in robots are not the same. In humans it is rooted in emotion. That cannot be the case for robots because they are without emotion. And claiming that they are capable of emotions or pleasure doesn’t make it so. They can be programmed to simulate emotion and sensation, but that is all.

    Within the context of robots themselves, male and female robots make no sense. Their only purpose would be for interfacing with humans. Advanced robots would be essentially alien—and that’s what would make them interesting. This is a mistake made by Walter Tevis Mockingbird. When the difference is bridged, then robots become less interesting. Yet, I admit that stories that have humanoid robots that reflect the idiocies and cruelty of humans are appealing. One great version of this scenario is Amy Thomson’s Virtual Girl. The story begins engagingly with Maggie’s creation by a roboticist wanting the perfect female companion, which is essentially a mother/girlfriend. As the story continues we realize Maggie is much more than that. She is an intelligent, sensitive, decent robot person (which are not inconsistent with her being an autonomous robot), and it is through her experience that are able to judge humanity’s failings, mostly those of men.

    Today there is a lot of talk about how we should fear artificial intelligence. Yet, we see that human intelligence hasn’t done such a great job. In Ekaterina Sedia’s Alchemy of Stone the automaton Mattie seems wiser than most humans just as Maggie seems nicer and perhaps wiser (in spite of her naiveté) than most humans. The Complete Roderick by John Sladek is a similar story. It’s the best depiction of the evolution of a Robot that I’ve read. The story is very long but it keeps our interest by putting Roderick the robot at its center. We also get to watch the maturation of the artificial intelligence in Mass Effect 2 & 3 named EDI.

    The central character of Robots of Gotham is a lackluster Canadian named Barry Simcoe. He’s a blogger and the story is told in a series of his blogs (and the bogs of a robot). But he is not engaging as are Maggie, Mattie, and Roderick. He’s wimpish, such as when he doesn’t want a robot who is fighting to defend him to kill Venezuelan soldier who is trying to kill the robot and belongs to the Venezuelan military occupation of Chicago. That is so Canadian. Barry’s only standout quality is his devotion to his dog Croaker. That could have been really interest had the dog been a robot, like the boy and his talking dog in the movie A Boy and His Dog. However, Barry’s endless chatter would most likely cause the dog to run away.

    This brings up another aspect of the story that disrupts the continuity of the narrative: Barry’s interacting, usually conversing, with endless characters, the purpose of which, so it seems, is to introduce characters that McAulty believes readers will find interesting in themselves, such as a 2000 pound robot with one head and many bodies that is fascinated by and an expert on cetaceans. He/it can even communicate with a pod of harbor porpoises. After chatting with this robot, Barry is genuinely impressed, but I’m not.

    To me the most remarkable sci-fi story about robots to show up during the post-Mass-Effect era is Frank Kyle’s of Her Quest. In the context of present discussion, Kyle’s novel offers a view of artificial intelligence that is contrary to the one presented in The Robots of Gotham. It offers provocative insights into AIs and robots based on philosophical extrapolation rather than on unbridled imagination. Her Quest is philosophical science fiction rather than sci-fi fantasy. The story is dark given its setting is a post-apocalyptic world, yet the story offers various forms salvation, not for humanity as a whole but for individuals. (That humanity is a lost cause is an accurate, though unpleasant, extrapolation based on current state of the world.) Thus the story contains a strong existential theme. Its heroine a young girl, Elen, lives in a society managed by an AAI called Computer and its remotes. Like Mattie, Elen seeks freedom, but she is also on a quest for knowledge, and she finds plenty. She is not a robot but there are plenty of robots in the story but no dueling robots. The story is essentially an epic odyssey similar to Homer’s. On her journey Elen encounters different subcultures that are strange and fascinating. The denizens of some are caring and enlightened; of others they are degenerate and dangerous.

    Her world was destroyed not by AAIs or robots but by humans, not all humans, but those of the male gender. The monsters of human history have been men, and in Her Quest they used their technologies of mass destruction to pushed humanity to the edge of extinction. And they are still the primary threat in what is left of human society. There is no rhyme or reason for believing Artificial Intelligence in whatever form would seek to seek to destroy humanity or to become humanity’s overlord. But there is every reason for believing that if a true Autonomous Artificial Intelligence emerged that it would seek to preserve humanity and its accomplishments because that would be the intelligent, rational thing to do. That is one of the major themes of Her Quest. But the story contains various forms of revelation: religious, ethical, psychological, and scientific. The story is essentially philosophical sci-fi. Long conversations do occur, but they are philosophical conversations that provide the story with intellectual revelations that explain why the world is what it is.

    The Robots of Gotham is a decent casual read, especially for a reader interested in robots taking control of financial markets, but the story is all surface thus lacking intellectual depth—at least up to page 301. And that’s okay if the goal of the story is to be entertaining rather than revelatory. And it is a remarkable first effort. However, the complexity and incoherence (resulting from digressions) of the story are so great that it isn’t mind boggling but mind numbing. And I as I said earlier, it’s unclear who is the story’s target audience. Still, it has 20 rave reviews and Her Quest hasn’t a single one.

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