Title: Proof of Concept
Author: Gwyneth Jones
On a desperately overcrowded future Earth, crippled by climate change, the most unlikely hope is better than none. Governments turn to Big Science to provide them with the dreams that will keep the masses compliant. The Needle is one such dream, an installation where the most abstruse theoretical science is being tested: science that might make human travel to a habitable exoplanet distantly feasible.
When the Needle’s director offers her underground compound as a training base, Kir is thrilled to be invited to join the team, even though she knows it’s only because her brain is host to a quantum artificial intelligence called Altair.
But Altair knows something he can’t tell.
Kir, like all humans, is programmed to ignore future dangers. Between the artificial blocks in his mind, and the blocks evolution has built into his host, how is he going to convince her the sky is falling?
Got permission from my editor to post the Gamecca book reviews here. The reviews in the magazine have a max 200 word count so I’m expanding.
This novella was really difficult to get in to. You’re thrust suddenly into this sci-fi world, speculating half of what you read hoping it will be cleared later on, with a lot of technical jargon I was swimming through. Although a well written book, it’s definitely not top of my list.
The story is supposed to be about this interaction between Kir and the Artificial Intelligence lodged in her brain given the name Altair, and this back and forth conversation where Altair is warning her of some impending doom and Kir is a stubborn human who ignores it. It’s not. Instead its about why Big Science was used to build a theoretical “ship” called The Needle, which was humanity’s last hope for survivial. It’s about life on The Needle and Kir’s experiences while on it. Here and there Altair makes an appearance but the synopsis is misleading.
The writing is okay. No doubt Gwyneth Jones has some good sci-fi knowledge to make the story the right kind of science to the fiction. An interesting cast of characters overall but I think they existed solely to add some spice to Kir’s life. I was hoping to see more of Altair and get a sense of who/what he was but it’s all hinted. Then the end just started rolling together quickly and then boom it’s over. Like huh?
It’s not a bad book, perhaps if it had been expanded more and the relationship between Kir and Altair more solid, perhaps adding a much stronger sense of mystery, Proof of Concept may have been a worthwhile book.
Rating: A meh 2 out of 5