I was tagged for the I’m a Sucker for blog post challenge by Rowena at beneathathousandskies.com, a tag which originated from the ridiculously creative mind of Alex at Spells and Spaceships. That guy just will not stop coming up with good ideas. Read on to find out one of the things that sucks me into a book!
This challenge actually stumped me for a little while. I struggled to come up with something that I always liked, or that would perhaps make me give a book more of a chance just because of its inclusion. There are plenty of tropes or themes which can be amazing when they’re done well, but absolutely won’t earn a book a free pass from me if everything else is a bit iffy. However, it did occur to me that there’s one thing which, every time it comes up, I love to see.
Dead folks getting turned into AIs.
The example that springs to mind for me (and no doubt many others) is the Dixie Flatline from William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, who appears to take his own death completely in his stride when he’s booted up, and is a genial and likeable partner in crime to main character Case in Neouromancer. But there’s also the likes of Darma, from Wayne Santos’ The Chimera Code – a similarly gifted hacker, but one who has his sudden lack of corporeal form somewhat thrust upon him. Then there’s the scheming Calvin Sylveste of Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space sequence, a man who, in life, managed to convince a number of willing participants (read: guinea pigs) to go along with his plans for the next stage of humanity – hence the monolithic “Monument to the Eighty” on Yellowstone.
It’s the perfect combination of melancholy and existential enquiry for me, where the very existence of these characters forces us to question what being human really means. Is a copy of a mind long since dead essentially the same? And if so, exactly what is so special about us in the first place? Mind/body duality and all that jazz, if you want to get philosophical about it. The ghost in the machine and so on.
To give credit where it’s due, I’m pretty sure the first example of this I can remember reading in fiction was one of the books in Tom Clancy’s Net Force series, where a group of teenagers were trying to find out what had happened to one of their friends. Said friend was still showing up online to play games with them, but they couldn’t get in touch with them outside of the… net? Web? Whatever now dated term he picked. Anyway, it turned out they’d been dead for the duration of the book I think, killed by shady government agents or something, but they were still on hand as a kind of guardian angel. It was pretty dark but also quite moving, in its way.
Thanks to Rowena for tagging me, and to Alex for coming up with this tag in the first place. It really made me think about specific things I like to see in books; hopefully it does the same for those people I’ve tagged on Twitter!