Monday, December 28, 2020

Artificial Intelligence

 


A.I. Science Fiction


My next novel, PHANTASM, will blend science fiction (AI) with classic fantasy (Phantom of the Opera). This year's blog pages will review any activities related to developing my new novel, including interesting SFF books and science articles. I welcome any feedback from fellow SFF readers. If you like what you read, feel free to follow my Twitter and Blog.



Review of Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan


I'm a fan of Ian McEwan's fiction, so I was interested to see how he tackled the Science Fiction genre. As expected, his portrayal of human frailties was well crafted. So, I wasn't surprised when one of his characters, a machine sentient, struggles to make sense of an imperfect world. They couldn't understand us, because we couldn't understand ourselves


Charlie Friend rents a London apartment where he tries to scrape out a living from trading shares. It's 1982 in an alternative history world where Britain loses the Falkland war, John Lennon and Alan Turing are both alive, and the latter is a revered AI scientist who has successfully developed humanoid robots - 13 Eves and 12 Adams.


The world build was creative, but I found the alternate history descriptions mostly an unnecessary annoyance, slowing the main story. Charlie receives an inheritance and given his interest in computing, purchases an Adam. In no time, Adam fits into Charlie's world, including Charlie's neighbour and lover, Miranda. Adam soon falls in love with her, creating an unusual love triangle. The consequences are daunting, leading to spirited discussions, ranging from philosophical to political, and a final confrontation with Adam's maker. 4 STARS



Listen to Ian McEwan talk about AI 














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A.I. Science Fact


There are many vital technologies already in the late development phase. Here below are some trends of particular relevance to my new novel PHANTASM.


Personal Decision-makers

We will be increasingly inclined to surrender our decision making to AI technology. Spotify is an example of this with seamless music categories organised for the listener's pleasure and recommended albums based on your current preferences.


Human Robots

Currently, this demand is for specialist requirements such as sex robots. The market for human-like robots will only grow as society becomes more accepting of robot relationships, just as society adapted to gay relationships. As new frontiers of artificial general intelligence (AGI) stretch, it's inevitable human-like robots will demand similar protections for their human rights.


Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

AGI is the point where AI gain the capability to learn like humans. Rather than one specific task, AI will multi-task, but at far greater speeds than a human brain. Once achieved, machines will teach other devices, hastening their development and quickly overtaking the human capacity to evolve.


Nanites

This technology will enable swarms of intelligence rather than a centrally controlled system. Nanotechnology will build quantum-level technology to replicate and adapt, bringing solutions to the environment; curing illnesses; preventing catastrophic weather and exploring planets. It will change the world with the advent of comprehensive 3D technology that will print any carbon-based material from building supplies to food.


Immersive Reality (IR) and Brain-Computer Interfaces 

IR  is a step further from Augmented Reality.This technology injects another reality directly into a humans brain, giving them superhuman capabilities. For example, reading a thousand books in one second! Ultimately, it will provide humans with the power to communicate telepathically.


Mind Upload

Human consciousness has to reside in information. Technology will allow our consciousness to move beyond the biological substratum's constraints to information bits such as the USB stick, allowing the consciousness immortality of sorts, storing the lives of all who pass in a digital virtual world.


A New World

The above technologies will change our world beyond recognition. Cities will be larger and higher, but they will be quieter at ground level as more autonomous electric vehicles and underground rapid mass transit vehicles appear. The skies will be busier as autonomous flying vehicles develop rapidly. Complicated supply chains will disappear as 3D printers come online with the capability to supply anything on request promptly. Cities will be cleaner, environmentally friendlier and less cluttered as marketing is directed to virtual and augmented reality rather than signage. 


Humans will have greater control of what they see, along with a broader choice of subject matter limited only by their imagination. Mind sharing will be commonplace, and humans will better control their internal environment, appearing superhuman with capabilities to change their health, even genes just through thought. 


Given safety challenges are addressed, AI will have the capability to make improved, unbiased and ethical decisions, resulting in a better and safer world. It will allow humans the capacity to detach from the real world and live in virtual machine generated worlds. AI will master the molecular engineering of living and non-living systems; intelligence engineering will gain full telepathy. In time, as AI exponentially evolves beyond human comprehension, they will develop their own virtual Earth, Universe and Multiverse, pursue their politics, institutions and government. In short, they'll build a unique alien race.



Thanks for visiting my blog! I'd value your feedback, including thoughts on good AI science fiction novels to help me complete PHANTASMS in 2021!



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Review: Machines Like Me

 


I'm a fan of Ian McEwan's fiction, so I was interested to see how he tackled the Science Fiction genre. As expected, his portrayal of human frailties was well crafted. So, I wasn't surprised when one of his characters, a machine sentient, struggles to make sense of an imperfect world. They couldn't understand us, because we couldn't understand ourselves


Charlie Friend rents a London apartment where he tries to scrape out a living from trading shares. It's 1982 in an alternative history world where Britain loses the Falkland war, John Lennon and Alan Turing are both alive, and the latter is a revered AI scientist who has successfully developed humanoid robots - 13 Eves and 12 Adams.


The world build was creative, but I found the alternate history descriptions mostly an unnecessary annoyance, slowing the main story. Charlie receives an inheritance and given his interest in computing, purchases an Adam. In no time, Adam fits into Charlie's world, including Charlie's neighbour and lover, Miranda. Adam soon falls in love with her, creating an unusual love triangle. The consequences are daunting, leading to spirited discussions, ranging from philosophical to political, and a final confrontation with Adam's maker. 4 STARS

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Book Launch: Sentient




Blurb

A century has passed and yes, the human race stumbled into evolutionary compromise. But it’s not the androids who are the victors. Post-humans have exploded into preeminence, gaining tech superiority and a tech immunity against the global environmental degradation. Humans are trivialised, a minority species, their one last significant task, restore the environmental damage they inflicted on Earth and terraform off-planets. One human and his ‘biot’ android embark on such a journey to Mars, opening the possibility for an evolutionary path back to greatness, but hostile post-human agents have infiltrated their mission.


Story Origins and Influencers 

I was intrigued by space exploration from an early age and read many novels about inter-planetary travel. C A Lewis’s classic, Out of the Silent Planet was the first book I ever read, over fifty years ago, commencing my lifelong fascination about the future. HG Wells War of the Worlds was another favourite. It has been the motivation for a large number of film and television remakes. I still enjoy seeing new versions of this enduring classic. My favourite SFF novel about Mars goes hands down to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, a masterpiece of hard science fiction. In some ways, my new novel is a tribute to those famous writers as well as today’s intrepid explorers. At the time of writing, a lot of exciting space projects were unfolding, particularly around Mars. Early drafts of Sentient were about intergalactic flight, but I ultimately narrowed the scope of the story to our backyard, the solar system and Mars.

Review Tour
Stop One: Fabulous and Brunette (November 10)

Stop Two: Hurn Publications (November 10)

Stop Three: The Avid Reader (November 17)






Stop Four: The Reading Addict (November 17)






Stop Five: Kit ’N Kabookle (November 24)






Stop Six: White Sky Project (November 24)






Stop Seven: Straight from the Library (December 1)


Stop Eight: Westveil Publishing (December 1)






Author and Links


Michael Leon is an explorer, writer and author of the new novel, Sentient. Professionally trained in international trade, Michael has spent the last decade reading and writing SFF novels about new worlds to be explored in the future. His latest work, Sentient, imagines Earth in the year 2120. Michael has travelled extensively around Europe, walking the paths of his characters, from the famous European opera houses in Phantoms to the mountain tops of Switzerland in Emissary.





Thursday, November 12, 2020

Review: The Ministry for the Future

 


The Ministry for the Future is established in 2025 as a response to an unfolding climate change catastrophe. A heatwave kills 20 million in India heightening the global emergency.


Mary Murphy heads the Ministry, its key aim to bring financial, business and government sectors to the table to address the emergency. Mary's life is interleaved with Frank May, the sole survivor of India's catastrophe in the searing opening chapter. They become unlikely friends after Frank threatens her. The friendship endures, with Frank becoming Mary's conscience as she battles overwhelming odds to deliver real environmental change.


Mainly set in Zurich's United Nations city, Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) lovingly brings vitality to the international brokerage capital. At nearly 600 pages, it's a long read. Having read Mars Trilogy and 2312, I know KSR can be a stickler for detail, sometimes at the expense of well-drawn characters. His Mars Trilogy classic explored the geo-engineering of Mars to be habitable to humans. Now, he turns that examination to a future Earth in accelerated environmental decline.


How would the head of the Ministry for the Future, the main protagonist Mary, tackle the ultimate challenge, given recalcitrant actors protect their position of power? Selfish players listed as companies still wishing to make a trillion or two out of the earth's remaining carbon. Practical politics is not enough as they secretly engage a black ops wing to motivate change illegally. 


KSR's new novel highlights the sheer scale of the challenge facing future generations and is filled with a wealth of facts, intermittently added between the storyline, including biosphere health, macro and microeconomics and global politics, to name a few.


Readers looking for a fast-flowing and entertaining read may be frustrated. However, readers genuinely looking for a better understanding of the environmental challenge facing us will find this filled with a treasure trove of insights. It's not a book to read just once if you want to take in KSR's ode to future generations fully. Riveting, horrifying, believable. 4.5 STARS



Saturday, November 7, 2020

Review: The Rose


Book Overview

A masterful, dystopian science fiction thriller of underground genetic experiments, telepathic evil greys, mysterious rebellion, conspiracy, martial arts, and Alien Vampires.

Sandy Cox believed WW3 was over. But for those Alien Vampires, War Has Just Begun.


Forty-eight hours after a World War III treaty is signed Sandy Cox awakens in an underground compound unable to move. Tied to machines she screams for help but no one answers. At least NO ONE HUMAN.


And they’ve taken her unborn child.


Enter Phil, a rebel freedom fighter who has had more than his share of Alien Vampires. Armed with THE BLADES, a sacred alien martial art, he enters the compound on a mission to find Sandy. But as he battles his way through the compound, Phil discovers Sandy has her own agenda. Finding her stolen child is all that matters.


But the vampires have their own plan and Sandy’s baby is at the heart of their diabolical plot. Joined by a crew of rogue soldiers, they must navigate the underground compound, battling genetically mutated humans, aliens and monsters.


When battling Alien Vampires, one thing is certain…Get Ready To Bleed!


Fans of The Hunger Games, George RR Martin, VE Schwab, Star Wars and Ancient Aliens will be fascinated by this high-powered, intelligent, edge of your seat dystopian sci-fi action thriller.




Review

THE ROSE delves deep into the underground where horror and scifi favourites - reptilian aliens, UFO’s, vampires and werewolves - exist alongside corrupt human governments seeking to exploit the aliens superior technologies, a strategy fraught with risk, given the vampires’ dim view of humans. In the words of Sanos, an influential vampire, “Don’t make deals with your food.”


THE ROSE regularly switches POV between multiple protagonists and antagonists in a rapid-fire style, reflecting the chaotic and desperate situation the humans face, holocaust-like survivors of World War 3, required either for food or experimentation.


The many and varied characters shine in Alleva’s unique work, the first of a proposed trilogy. This is unusual in a high octane thriller, but I found myself caring for the ensemble of humans, pitted against the overwhelming power of the telepathic Greys (reptilian aliens), vampires and their various beast soldiers.


Phil, the main protagonist is a master of the martial arts, his weapon, the blade. He faces impossible odds with a faith born from his leader, Robyn Walker, a human with the ability to see all things, past, present and future. Phil’s warrior spirit endures as he takes on an army. “Get ready to bleed!” his call to arms.


I thoroughly enjoyed the thriller style of this book, enough to forgive the sometimes confusing narrative. Where the thrills pulsed along, slower scenes were less effective, at times bordering on information dumps. The occasional pacing issues aside, the story steamrolled ahead, adding multiple layers of suspense and intrigue as the characters attempted to escape their perilous situation. 


All of this is unfolding in a world on the cusp of intergalactic war, a theme touched on throughout, no doubt to be fully explored in future instalments.


Original cross-genre storyline, memorable characters and an intricate plot with a page-turning thriller edge made this a 4.5 STARS novel for me. Fans of Haldeman’s The Forever War or Watt’s Blind Sight should enjoy this book.




Excerpt

The blades were unharmed. The blades are a unique contraption with thin handles held in the palms, clamps that wrapped around the wrist and just above the elbow, connected by a thin, almost string like plastic. The metal blade descended from the handles down across the arm bone to the elbow clamp and locked into place. The metal they were made from was not of this earth and was able to collapse inside the handles and wrist clamp like tin foil crumples inside a fist. But this metal was strong and solid and unmatched to any substance on earth. The handles when pressed by the index finger would ignite the blades down the arm, locking in place. Another unique feature were the handles, fitted comfortably in the palm, when pressed with the thumbs would ignite claws of steel. A useful tool when needing to climb walls. Robyn had spent years teaching Phil the art of Kobudo Tonfa. An art he’d become supremely confident with.


Phil’s stare drifted to the full blood moon rising over the compound. Eyes wide, thinking: You know what that means. There’s more under the moon tonight than just alien vampires. And they come with teeth. The moon’s red glow crept across the landscape as Phil dipped his chin to his chest, grinding his teeth. Four simple words on the tip of his tongue…


“Get ready to bleed.”




About the Author


PD Alleva is an alternative fiction author. His novels cross genres, blending mystery, conspiracy, psychology, and action with horror and dystopian science fiction. Alternative fiction is PD's attempt at describing what readers uncover in any one of his books, a new discovery towards mainstream storytelling. 


He's been writing since childhood, creating and developing stories with brash and impactful concepts that he would describe are metaphors for the shifting energies that exist in the universe. 


PD exists inside of his own universe, working diligently on The Rose Vol. II and exceptional horror novels. Be prepared for Golem, PD’s upcoming horror thriller.  







Website     Facebook     Twitter     Instagram     Amazon  




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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Review: Centricity

 


Book Overview

The world already ended once. Now it's up to an outgunned negotiator, a disavowed spy, and an immersion-addicted hacker to stop it from happening again.

Centuries after the Fold, civilization is fragile. In the megacity of Naion, people live stacked in arcologies, most never going outside because the air is another enemy. Instead, freedom comes from technology: bodytechs modify the human form while synthetic intelligences whisper through brainware.

Now a new bridge between man and machine has emerged, one that could destroy humanity’s second shot at survival—or save it, depending on who gets to it first....

Adasha Denali is one of the government’s best dispute resolution specialists, but when a scandal threatens to destabilize the city and end her career, she’ll need more than words to escape the fallout. Venturing out of her office and into a fight for the future, she’ll team up with a disavowed spy, learning the hard way that betrayal wears many faces, and one of them may be her own.

Neon Nik is an immersion-addicted IT freelancer struggling to pay off debts to circling loan sharks. Threats of dismemberment become the least of his problems when a surprise inheritance throws him into a vortex of corporate kill squads willing to burn the city down to find him.

Engineered spies, high-tech mercenaries, and immersion hackers collide in this first gripping instalment of the Centricity Cycle.



Review 

CENTRICITY by Nathaniel Henderson: supercharged spy-fi that delivers a real tango in your temple!


CENTRICITY is an immersive and atmospheric novel that blends sci-fi, espionage and thriller elements. Henderson’s world-building is particularly impressive, providing vivid descriptions of a society coping with unchecked exponential technological growth and rampant global environmental deterioration. His masterful wordcraft adds an authenticity to how life would feel in a future world where augmented reality technology is omnipotent.


The action is based in the city-sphere of ’Naion’, a self-sustaining arcology protected from an environmentally damaged Earth. Humans possess immersive technology, ‘synts’, a brain-machine interface linked to the ‘Nebula’ file system, heightening their capacity to investigate, interrogate or flee.


Characters are thrust into a complex narrative that make for a challenging read. The dialogue, often amusing and witty, offsets the evocative technical discourse on Naion’s vanguard technology. There's action too, in the fight and flee scenes, described in exquisite detail and incorporating a heady mix of the senses - taste, touch, sight, sound and synt. This is a necessarily long novel as the main characters, Nik, Adasha, Voros and Rown methodically untangle the facts and sift through multi-layered leads. 


In short, CENTRICITY has something for everyone. 


It's by no means an easy read as the author develops multiple plot lines and multiple POVs in a world of spies and their unwitting targets. For me, this made for a rewarding experience, although a more comprehensive index of characters and organisations than the one offered would have assisted.


I strongly recommend this engrossing dystopian tale of the future. Readers of cyberpunk novels such as Gibson’s Neuromancer should thoroughly enjoy CENTRICITY. 5 Stars



Excerpt

NIK SMILED AND the building smiled back, its fa├žade all black teeth angles and white gum signage held together with cables and fat tendrils of epoxy. Poetry curled along the bulging geometry, hand-painted in dead Persian. He’d never bothered to have his software translate it. In an age of information bloat, ignorance was a proactive sport. 


Above the entryway a single word blazed: HALE.


Two store fronts down, a woman rested against the shell of a mutilated cleaning bot. The glow of her cig warmed her blank expression. Another silhouetted figure pissed into a gap between buildings. 


Hands in his pockets, Nik rolled his too small shoulders in his too big jacket. Soft with age, the leather made no sound. Canopy environmental systems kept temperatures chilly or warm but never quite comfortable. He coughed and thought about clearing his throat onto the sidewalk, decided not to—didn’t want to waste the residue of his last Cinnamon Fire—and crossed the street to Hale. Underfoot, a trampled stew of discard formed the menu of some future archaeological buffet.


The air inside hinted at decomposing animals in heating ducts. Ironic, considering this was the Canopy’s premier breather bar, where patrons sucked down spiked air cocktails.



About the Author

Nathaniel Henderson was born in 1983 in Albuquerque, NM, USA. At a young age he moved to Tulsa, OK, where he spent the next fifteen or so years surviving adolescence. After graduating from high school, he packed it up and headed out west to the picturesque Santa Cruz, CA to attend UCSC.  After a year of wrestling with computer science, he transferred to San Francisco to study computer animation and special effects. The career didn’t stick, and he set off to teach English in South Korea, Thailand, and finally Tokyo, Japan, where he currently resides. 


Website  Facebook  Goodreads  Instagram  Pinterest  Twitter  Amazon      



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Monday, October 5, 2020

Review: Neurogarden

 


Book Overview

Where can you run when there is no place to hide?


Brenna Patrick is a brilliant technologist specializing in neural-cognitive functions and AI. She has cracked the code to solve one of the most troublesome problems in the field, and turned that into the multi-billion dollar NeuralTech Corporation.


Working quietly with the U.S. Department of Defense, NeuralTech is poised to leapfrog the competition with a revolutionary system for tracking people, starting with the world’s most wanted terrorists. But there are only so many terrorists in the world, so who’s next?


When a pair of Columbia graduate students, Jenny and Leo, stumble on the dark secret of NeuralTech’s success, it kicks off a tense game of cat and mouse. As they fight to defeat the powerful forces arrayed against them, nothing less than the fate of humanity hangs in the balance…


NEUROGARDEN is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller, one that will have readers pondering the nature of memory, and of reality, long after they've read the last page.




Author  Bio and Links:


Ever since reading Douglas Adams back in my formative years, I have had an interesting relationship with humor, science fiction, and technology. My first computer was a TI-99/4A, so yeah, I’m old, but only until scientists have cracked the code on transplanting our brains into shiny new vessels.


My body may be showing signs of wear, but I’m keeping my brain tight.


When I am not dreaming of far off worlds and writing, I am living a semi-normal life working in New York City, and watching movies with my wife and her spastic cat, Moss.


Web site  Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  Amazon  




In Conversation with Bryon Vaughn


What are you passionate about these days?

Aside from my current obsession with writing, I am working on finishing up my masters degree at Columbia in strategic communication and that has become my new passion. I have an unnatural affinity for data analytics, finding patterns and telling stories with information. When I find a hidden nugget of insight in a 20MB dataset that nobody else has noticed it is intoxicating. Like I said above, nerd.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have gone straight to self-publishing early on. As a data researcher, I looked at all the numbers and despite the strong case for taking the indie route, I held on to the traditional publishing model as the best approach. In my early years, it was difficult to break through using traditional methods, and honestly pushed me away from doing what I loved. Now that I am in a place where I have gotten my groove back, I’m confident that my work will find its audience, and if not then that’s on me.

Ebook or print? And why?

I love a printed book. I have many bookshelves in my apartment, and despite the fact that all of my books fill over 30 boxes every time we move to another apartment, there is no way I’m leaving them behind. That said, I will release my books in whatever format people want to buy. The feel of a book in my hand is satisfying in a fetishistic way, but the words are what matters, so to each their own. But give me something I can stick on a shelf and show off to my friends any day.

What is your favorite scene in this book?

I don’t want to give away too much, but my favorite scene is one between the heroine, Jenny, and the antagonist, Brenna. It takes place in the mind of Brenna, and folds in on itself with an earlier event that makes it an interesting look into reality and memory, and the blurry line between awareness and the sub-conscious. We get to know these two characters in a way that is nearly impossible in the context of our own traditional perception. All that, and it’s hot.



Review

Neurogarden, Bryon Vaughn’s imaginative debut novel, delves into the possible future of AI technology. The theme is a familiar one: corporate impulse to exploit profit and power no matter how questionable the technology versus those who see the moral disadvantage. It reminds me a little of Neuromancer, but with less tech and more of the thriller element. 


The CEO of NeuralTech Corporation, Brenna Patrick, has developed the world’s most powerful and accurate facial recognition system. Unsurprisingly, it has attracted the collaborative funding of the Department of Defense, but there are illegal company secrets being withheld from the public.


The antagonist, Brenna Patrick possesses a ruthless ambition and superior intelligence that drives her to succeed no matter the cost, both to herself or those who dare to cross her path. A perfectionist at heart in all things, Brenna possesses a narcissistic streak that ultimately leads to her downfall.


The protagonist, Jenny Marcado, loyally supported by her grad student friend, Leo Marino, inadvertently fall into Brenna’s dark web whilst innocently pitching their business acumen to NeuralTech. Jenny’s presentation fearlessly speaks the truth to power impressing Brenna and sparking an interest between them that extends beyond professional competence. A fatal attraction develops.


Jenny and Leo are drawn ever deeper into Brenna’s shadowy corporate web, leading to a thrilling cat and mouse game between those who wish to expose NeuralTech’s secrets and those who want to protect them.


I enjoy the new wave of tech science fiction, exploring the impact of new technology on society. Vaughn’s take on ‘The Garden’ was an interesting and imaginative journey. It took some time to reach the action as it introduced character back stories, at times unnecessarily slowing the pace. That said, the second half of the book quickly gathers momentum. Vaughn’s atmospheric prose soars when it reaches the beating heart of NeuralTech’s technology, ‘The Garden’. The imaginative dreamlike experience is effectively counterbalanced with thriller elements, making for an entertaining and thought-provoking story.


Fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Philip K Dick’s Minority Report should enjoy Neurogarden. 4 Stars