Review #29: Happiness for Humans

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

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Publication date: 10 January 2019

I obtained a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Do you believe in soulmates?

Aiden does. So when his colleague, Jen, is dumped unceremoniously by her dreadful boyfriend, Aiden decides to take matters – and Jen’s life – into his own hands. 

Scouring the internet for a suitable partner for Jen, Aiden finds Tom. He’d be perfect for Jen apart from one minor detail: Tom lives in New York. 

Luckily for Jen and Tom, Aiden’s not just an interfering colleague. In fact, Aiden isn’t exactly human – he’s a very complicated artificial intelligence. 

As Jen and Tom’s romance grows, Aiden begins to take more and more risks to make sure that they can be together. But what will happen if they realise how they met…and that somebody else is pulling the strings?

Humans use machines everyday and for nearly everything: making coffee in the morning, checking emails, paying for your groceries… but what if humans and machines could have a deeper connection? That’s the subject that Happiness for Humans explore. Jen works for a company that develops Artificial Intelligence, and her job is to talk to one of these AIs all day long, in an effort to see how human-like they can become. And before long, it becomes apparent that these non-human intelligences can become sentient. Unbeknownst to Jen however, who still thinks that Aiden, her AI colleague, is still safely confined to the four walls of the laboratory. But Aiden has in fact escaped onto the internet and is able to observe humans (and particularly Jen) through all kinds of electronic devices (CCTV cameras, phones, laptops…) and as Aiden develops as an AI, he starts getting attached to Jen and when her boyfriend of two years breaks up with her, Aiden takes it upon himself to find Jen a more worthy match and get revenge on the ex-boyfriend.

One of the striking things about this book is how alike the humans and AIs are. Even though AIs have a lot more scientific abilities, they also develop their own personality quirks and enjoy doing different things (watching movies for Aiden, painting for Aisling) and their feelings and reactions to events are really close to those of humans.

The book shifts narratives between the human characters and the AIs and it all flows smoothly. It’s funny, witty and ever so realistic. All of the characters are very lovable, and Aiden’s obsession with wanting to try cheese made me crave cheese a few times myself. Even the villain AI, Sinai, is lovable in his own way, especially once he realises that he is only evil and causing chaos because he’s lonely, and that’s very relatable.

Of course, the book also presents the dangers of AI and the fact that humans are unable to predict what would happen if AI could become sentient, and possibly take over the world. It is a worrying thought but in this novel, mainly a passing one as it’s treated with fairly lightheartedly.

Overall, I liked this novel. The witty and funny writing seduced me from the get go. I did find it a bit long though, with some scenes not particularly useful for the story, but apart from that it was an enjoyable lighthearted read that I would recommend to any romantic comedy lovers.

Review #28: Apparent Power

Apparent Power by Dacia M Arnold

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Published on 11 December 2018

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

True electrical power is Apparent Power.
An apocalyptic event awakens a dormant gene in a quarter of the world’s population. With an even rarer gene, the life Valerie Russell has turned into a shocking race against time.
Stranded in southern Colorado, a hundred miles from home—and from her two-year-old son— Valerie must find it within herself to trek the distance with the help of a questionable assembly of ex-military friends of the family. As she desperately seeks to avoid capture from a government rising from the ashes of The Event, Valerie is also faced with a moral choice: risk failure by trying to save the masses from the regime’s evil plot or run, and preserve only the lives of her family. A mother would do anything for the safety of her children.

Dacia Arnold takes us into a dystopian world where a quarter of the world’s population has awaken with the ability to conduct and control electricity through their bodies. For most of the population, including Valerie Russell, this is unexpected news. However, the government seems to have known for a long time that this could happen and have been preparing their own facility to accommodate and take control of the new world.

The main character, Valerie Russell, is a DiaZem which means that she is not only a conductor of electricity but she can also control it to extreme extents. Separated from her husband and son when the event occurs, she will have to trek a hundred miles with a group of strangers in order to be reunited with her family, all the while trying to stay away from the government’s grasp.

I really enjoyed this novel. The whole dormant gene storyline reminded me of X-men, especially in the fact that the main villain, also a DiaZem, plans to eradicate “regular” people and create a new world order where only conductors reign. In this way, he could be compared to Magneto. Valerie on the other hand, whose husband and friends are regular people doesn’t want anyone to die and wants to find a way for everyone to live in harmony, and therefore she is much closer to Charles Xavier’s views.

I’m not usually a big fan of sci-fi but I do love a good dystopian book, and this was it. The story is original, the characters are well developed (even though there are a lot of them to start with and it can be confusing) and I loved the ending. It was really intense and climactic and as I got closer and closer to the end, I kept asking myself “how is this going to be resolved?!”

Valerie and Hyka were my favourite characters, but while I do appreciate them being two strong female characters, they do overshadow the rest of the primarily male group.

The writing was effortless and easy to read, and even without having much scientific knowledge I could make sense of what was going on. With this book being the first of a trilogy, I am looking forward to the next one as I would very much like to know what happens next in this new world.

Quick note though, there were once again quite a few typos and missing words in the text, not enough to hinder reading but enough to seek out further editing.

Review #27: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

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Published on 26 January 2017

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is about how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, but how we can sometimes get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.
It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN, because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… or does God have a higher purpose after all?
Despite that, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is neither sci-fi nor fantasy. It is a book about memory and how, if we could remember things slightly differently, would we also be changed?

In HVN, Lorna can at first remember nothing. But as her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decisions to make and that, maybe, she can find a way back home.

This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some parts of it I really enjoyed and others not so much. The whole Heaven being a spaceship storyline did not really appeal to me, probably because I am not a huge sci-fi fan. It was an interesting concept, but not quite for me. I was also confused by God’s character and what the author’s stance was, as in does he believe in God or not? Not that it matters, but it confused me a little. For example the author would have this God character explain how he created mankind etc, sort of endorsing Creationism but then at other times, God would say that people are free to choose whether to believe in him or not… So I’m not too sure about all this, as an atheist I find it hard to read books that involve God-like characters as it sometimes rubs my beliefs (or lack thereof) the wrong way.

The part I liked the most about the story however, was discovering Lorna’s memories with her as her brain regenerated, and I’m glad most of the book consisted of that, since I wasn’t too fussed on the spaceship narrative. Lorna is such a lovable and relatable character. She is a young adult and not too sure where she’s headed in life. She makes mistakes and sometimes treat people inadequately, but her time in Heaven (or HVN) gives her the opportunity to revisit her memories and reflect on her behaviours. I mean, who wouldn’t like to be able to do that in daily life? Introspection and hindsight are gifts.

I also enjoyed the way this book is written. It’s simple, down-to-earth, ironic and satirical. It doesn’t take life or death too seriously, while still casting the message to enjoy the time you have on earth. It’s very light-hearted and easy to get into. I wasn’t too fussed about the ending, but I guess that’s just my personal opinion. I also felt like if you were reading it for the sci-fi narrative you could be disappointed as this storyline isn’t pushed much. Thankfully this wasn’t the part I was most interested in.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoy a good introspective, almost philosophical read, and it might make you take a look at your own life and reflect on your own decisions and behaviours, which could be a good thing to try once in a while.