SpeculativeFiction


AI War: The Big Boost

Many years ago, when I was a young man, or perhaps a boy in the process of becoming a young man, I walked into a bookstore and bought a book that would change my life.  I bought the book on the basis of the cover, because the cover was the coolest thing I had ever seen: a man wearing sunglasses drives a car in a futuristic city. 

You understand, I say he drives the car because that is what one does with a car.  But the car driven by the man in the sunglasses is a Chandler MetalSmith, and with the autocomp left off (as all autocomps were left off, until the driver requested otherwise, until the law required otherwise) the man may be driving the MetalSmith, but the proper word for what the MetalSmith is doing is flying.

The man in the sunglasses drives the MetalSmith in a spiral around and around the spacescraper, the futuristic city as his backdrop, and the police chase him around and around in their angry red flying cars, because the man in the sunglasses is so cool it's criminal.

Someone once said that good writing is the process of thinking up something cool, and writing it down, and then thinking up something even cooler, and writing it down next, and so on and so on, escalating the cool each time.  If you can write that way, you should.  Not everyone can.

Daniel Keys Moran can.

And the man in the sunglasses?  His name is Trent.  People call him the Trent the Uncatchable.  But his story does not begin in the flying car on the cover of The Long Run in that bookstore many years ago; his story begins when he was the same age I was when I first looked at that cover, in a book called Emerald Eyes. 

Trent's eyes are blue, behind the sunglasses.  But his parents both have brilliant emerald green eyes, as do over a hundred of his brothers and sisters.  At least insofar as a man whose DNA was gene-engineered from scratch can be said to have a family at all.  They were telepaths; Trent was not. 

Trent was roughly the same age as I was, standing in that bookstore and examining the cover art of the book I would buy, when the PeaceKeepers detonated a tactical nuclear weapon on his home, because they could not allow genetically-engineered telepaths the right of self-determination.

Trent was not there at the time.

I took that book home, and read it, and was enthralled.  But Trent is a hard man to catch.  It was years before I located a copy of Emerald Eyes, more years before I managed to find the story of Trent's sister Denice (The Last Dancer) and the small little corner of science fiction fandom that thought Trent was Cool.  And kept thinking it, as even more years passed.  Through that community I had the chance to exchange emails with the author, a man nearly as cool as his characters, and one of the few liberals I can not only respect as a person, but argue with and still respect in the morning.  I was of the right age to be thinking of my future career in those days; I chose to become a computerist, as Trent would call it, and perhaps someday an author -- a dream easier to imagine than to achieve.

I don't credit those decisions to that particular choice of book on that particular day, but I do credit that book with the realization that computerists can be just as cool as anyone else.  In theory, of course.  Practice is another matter, and much more difficult.

The books I read then, written in the early '90s, have held up remarkably well for books written about computers.  Decades before the actual fact, they had smart-phones and ubiquitous wireless internet and computer security problems and genetic engineering.  They also have telepaths, and cyborgs, and a moon colony, but that's OK; we have a few decades to catch up yet.

There is something else that they have in Trent's world that we do not:
In 2072, the United Nations Space Force began building the Unity . . . at Halfway. The Unity was seven kilometers long. It was not merely the largest spacecraft that had ever been built, more than ten times as long as the uncrewed mining ferries that had, in calmer times, sent ore from the Belt to Halfway; it was nearly the largest artifact humans had ever built. There are cylindrical Cities in the Belt that are larger, blown up out of asteroids that were melted down with giant mirrors, and then inflated, while still molten metal, to the desired shape . . . but in 2080 there are only a few, and even those few are not much larger than the Unity. She had been designed for one purpose, and though the Unification had never said so publicly, that purpose was the clearest thing in the System: Sixty years after the end of the Unification War, the Unification of Earth intended to become the Unification of Sol.
If you've read this far, you've noticed that I've told you a lot about the world Trent lives in, but I haven't told you much about his story.  I can't tell you about that, because you need to read it for yourself.  But I can tell you this: it is about love, and loss, and life; it is about power, the kind men struggle to gain and the kind men can only choose for themselves; it is about courage; and, in the end, it is about running away.

The most courageous thing of all.

I have been waiting for this book for over a decade, and the best review I can offer is short and sweet.

It was worth the wait.

UPDATE: I thought I would address some common questions. 

First, there has been a lot of material from the book posted online already if you have been following the author for a while.  Don't be scared off if you've read what's already been posted in various places.  This is NOT a compilation of previously posted material.  There is both stuff you have already seen and a lot of new stuff.

Second, it is a complete story.  It has an ending that makes sense for this part of the story arc.  There's more to the story, but you aren't getting chopped off in the middle with "to be continued" on the last page.

Mon Mar 28 07:51:21 CDT 2011 by matthew@infodancer.org. Comments

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