Nearly There… STORIES OF SINGULARITY–A Review

Hi there! As you know I’m a big fan of the speculative fiction of Susan Kaye Quinn. THE LEGACY HUMAN and THE DUALITY BRIDGE are some serious teen sci-fi/romance. That series is set in the post-Singularity world, where AI rule Earth and beyond. Today marks the release of STORIES OF SINGULARITY, short novellas that give the fans of the series a bit of insider info, and a sneak peek into the novels to come!

Stories of Singularity #1-4 Box SetAbout the book:
Med Bots, Ascenders, Cyborgs… and a Legacy Human or two.
(Companion stories to the Singularity novel series.)

This box set of FOUR NOVELLAS (plus a bonus flash fiction) is set in the universe of Susan Kaye Quinn’s Singularity novel series. Learn why a med bot’s world is tragically different than you might imagine; how a machine intelligence might probe the limits of its constraint; and what dissenting humans might do with a cybernetic enhancement… or five. These short stories each provide a glimpse into a dark corner of the Singularity novels

Fans of the Singularity novel series will find their understanding of the Singularity world enhanced by the novellas, but they can also be enjoyed as standalone stories.

My Review:
This is a series of four stories set in the author’s Singularity world. That means AI are not possible, they rule Earth, and apparently beyond. In these stories, humans have evolved into Ascenders, those which opted to digitize their consciousness into a world collective called Orion, and exist in host bodies that are wholly machine. There are plenty of low-sentience bots who due the menial work, and some smallish populations of Legacy humans, who are mostly kept alive for their genetic diversity. Two of the stories are told from a bot perspective, and two from humans. They are all unique and impart an understanding of humanity in the way Ascenders have long forgotten it.

The first of the stories is RESTORE, a short novella chronicling the events of a medical bot who is brought to the home of an Ascender to treat the Ascender’s legacy human artist-in-residence who is dying.

This futuristic world (post-Singularity) has genetic treatments for all sorts of cancers and infections, but these are prohibited to legacy humans–it is their genetic variability which is valuable, so they cannot change their genetics, even if it means dying young due to otherwise curable diseases.

Tyrus is a powerful Ascender and has brought Unit 7435 to his home to treat Sherrie, a 20 y/o artist whom Tyrus not only supports, he has great affection for her, a feeling which is reciprocated. Unit 7435 and Sherrie are told that Tyrus has acquired experimental medicine that will help Sherrie, and in one way this is true. Sherrie has battled through several rounds of chemotherapy for lymphoma, but is now suffering an opportunistic pneumonia infection.

As the day passes, Unit 7435 experiences, for the first time, emotional connection to a medical situation that is out of control. The tension is great and increases dramatically as the bot continues to check Sherrie’s vitals throughout the treatment. Tyrus and Sherrie express their great affection, while Unit 7435 observes and relates the tale, and the anxiety. The end is stark, but truly awesome. Don’t expect miracles of the human kind.

I was fascinated by the resonance within the bot’s POV. Having spent too many days at the bedside of a terribly ill loved one, this short read captured those experiences with a chilling accuracy that was anything but detached. Bravo!

The second novella, CONTAINMENT is another bot tale. This time, a low sentience Mining Master bot on Thebe, one of Jupiter’s moons, evolves enough to not only demonstrate creativity, but to engineer its own ascendance. I just seriously loved how logical, and yet captivated by beauty this bot was. There is an urgency to the story–Ascenders have put protocols into place that prevent the acquisition of such knowledge, but a la Jurassic Park: life finds a way.

The Master of Thebe recognizes all the fail safes, and works within it’s framework to defeat its own processing. It can and does go several directions that are dangerous, and likely to make it be destroyed, if noticed. I truly enjoyed the end, where we are able to see the human side of Ascendance, and how this is not altogether lost in the electronic mind post-Singularity. Again, being in the brain of a bot takes a bit of adjustment, but I think the goals of this character are human in desire, and fully approachable. #Loved

DEFIANCE third is a short story told from the POV of Cyrus, best friend of Eli MC of THE LEGACY HUMAN and the Singularity books. Cyrus is all alone in New Portland, an orphan of the Legacy sity, who has recently lost his grandfather caretaker. He’s about 17, and street savvy, working for a black market augment and meds dealer, Riley. There are lots of chemical ways Cyrus, and even Eli, could while away their time, but they stay sharp and sober. This is good, because it enables them to make use of their talents when Eli’s mom is diagnosed with lymphoma.

This story is actually a prequel to THE LEGACY HUMAN, so readers know that not only is Eli breaking the law to obtain gen-tech treatment for this mother, it is Cyrus who is supplying the illegal medicine. I really got a sense of Cyrus’ anger and frustration for a system where he feels humans are little more than zoo attractions for the Ascenders. Despite all their advances, their rigid rules and withholding of life-saving treatments are considered by all Legacies (and the off-the grid Legacy defectors) to be cruel and unjust. I loved getting to know Cyrus better, and to better understand all that he went through to help Eli and his mom. At any point Cyrus could have walked away, left New Portland and it’s rules and regime behind, yet he didn’t. He had people to care for, and a dangerous path to take in order to do so. A real subversive hero.

AUGMENT is a novella set deeper into the timeline of the Singularity novels. Miriam Levine is a jiv, a human that has mechanical prosthetics, or augments. Though she was born a Legacy human without legs, the Ascenders never installed the leg augments. No, those only came when Miriam’s father defected after his young wife was left to die of a heart condition. Miriam is 16 and an experienced fighter in the underground augment battle arena. By winning championships she’s earned several other internal augments, called mods. This story opens with Miriam battling a friend and fellow jiv to win the Resurrection mod, a newly developed internal device that would slow her heart and body systems to allow time for natural healing in the event of a catastrophic injury.

See, Miriam has a plan for humanity, and it’s NOT to be Ascender entertainment. No, the colonies of defectors have been looking for a Chosen, one of their own who will be both human and Ascended, and Miriam believes that, with the help of this Resurrection mod, she could be the first survivor of the neural implant procedure that’s part of being Chosen. Even if she dies, she reasons, the status accorded to her as a volunteer in the Chosen pathway will allow permanent care for her still-grieving and mostly despondent father. It’s a big choice for a young girl, and she is an excellent new character into this world. I have a feeling that Miriam and Eli are going to have many confrontations in the next Singularity book.

This is a great read for people who are captivated by dystopian fiction, and the AI augmented future of humanity. As the author points out in her notes, we already have a LOT of AI on Earth, and human augments thrive among us. It’s not a matter of IF this could happen, but WHEN…. 😉

Interested? You can find STORIES OF SINGULARITY on Goodreads and Amazon.

SusanAuthor Susan Kay Quinn
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, and the Debt Collector serial, as well as other speculative fiction novels and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Synchronic anthology, the Telepath Chronicles, the AI Chronicles, and has been optioned for Virtual Reality by Immersive Entertainment. Former rocket scientist, now she invents mind powers, dabbles in steampunk, and dreams of the Singularity. Mostly she sits around in her PJs in awe that she gets to write full time.

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Cephalopod Coffeehouse February 2015–THE LEGACY HUMAN-A Review

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

As part of the Coffeehouse I’m obligated to share the best book I read this month. A few of my Coffeehouse friends are familiar with Susan Kaye Quinn, but this is a NEW, so I am eager to share a YA dystopian-future gem. Oh, and scroll down to enter the KINDLE GIVEAWAY!!

The Legacy Human (Singularity #1)About the book:
When transcending humanity is the prize, winning the Game is all that matters.

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

The Legacy Human is the first in a new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.

My Review:
This is a sci-fi YA story set in a richly described dystopian future. More than one hundred years ago, Earth had a catastrophic population event, called the Singularity. At that time, there were serious issues with population and shortages, but a new technology allowed the conscious of a human to be uploaded into a computer mainframe called Orion. This collective was then able to “download” the experiences of each “Ascender” into discrete automaton bodies. Ascenders had not only their own knowledge, but access to the minds of the billions who likewise ascended.  Those who chose not to Ascend–Legacy Humans–Have been treated like museum pieces to some extent. They are now little more than entertainment for the Ascenders, existing in small Ascender-monitored communities where they have all the “basic” needs met, or off the grid in Believer/rebel colonies.

What is celebrated by Ascenders is the creativity of the Legacy mind. The ability to create–life, art–is venerated. As Legacies are meant to live, and die, the technology that Ascenders use on a daily basis to extend and improve life is denied to the Legacies.

At the time of the Singularity, any human could choose to Ascend, however that avenue is now closed. Currently, the only way for a Legacy to join Orion’s collective is to win one of four coveted, annual spaces in the Art Olympics. Each year the best Legacy (under age 18) in Art, Drama, Writing or Music is selected in the Agon Games–and each winner plus his/her immediate family is ascended.  With the prospect of virtual immortality on the line, winning is difficult, if not downright deadly.

Eli is a 17 y/o Legacy Human who wants nothing more than to get his mother well. She suffers leukemia, a disease that Ascender gene tech can easily cure, but she is denied this treatment because, well, humans die. No point healing them if they are only going to die anyway, in the Ascender viewpoint. Eli is also a talented artist, and he is selling his art for illegal “chits” to buy the forbidden treatment. Eli has an Ascender patron, Lenora, who is helping him to improve his craft, and also assisting with the sales of his work.

Eli wishes to Ascend not only to save his mother, but also to be worthy of an equal relationship with Lenora–while Ascenders and Legacies can have “relations” this is highly frowned upon. Plus, Eli wants to be more than a domestic. He wants immortality, but Lenora will not sponsor him for the Agon Games. And, Eli’s mother doesn’t actually WANT to Ascend. She believes, as do many Legacies, that Ascending destroys the human soul.

Turns out, Lenora’s second (read: boyfriend/partner), Marcus, will. As Eli enters the Games, however, it turns out to be far harder for him than he imagined. Two “Agonites” are already dead, and the likelihood is high for another fatality. Eli is assisted by his dearest friend, Cyrus, and makes a few rebellious friends: Kamali, Basha and Delphina, all who do not actually wish to ascend. Eli is mystified; who wouldn’t wish to be perfection? Still, he hears their arguments against–the most incredible being this “soul” issue.

Eli’s art suffers from an inability to connect to his creative genius. It sometimes peeks out in a “fugue” state–he gets angry or upset and the art…happens. He wakes from this (almost) trance to find amazingly detailed paintings, the kind that could clearly win the Gold, but he cannot harness his fugue. It is transient, though seems to be happening with greater frequency. Kamali seems to be able to draw Eli into the fugue, however, and they pair up often to facilitate Eli’s chance.

As Eli and Kamali talk, Eli comes to realize that the Legacy and Ascender life are not all they seem. Eli recognizes that his true goal, to Ascend and save his mother and become Lenora’s second, are perhaps not the best goals. Well, he’s dead set on saving his mother, but perhaps being Ascended isn’t the perfection he craves after all…

THE LEGACY HUMAN is beautifully rendered with a lush world and the kind of moral dilemmas that are core issues in our own time. Do we have souls? What are the permanent effects of childhood decisions? Can we truly harness power for good, or will power always corrupt? Eli’s fight to save his mother extend throughout the Games and afterward–when he learns he’s been (perhaps) double/triple crossed. He is a strong, likable character and his plight is sympathetic. He competes for love–for his mother’s life and the woman he desires. That he is an inadvertent hero of a cause he didn’t know existed? Well, that’s for the next book.

INTERESTED? You can find THE LEGACY HUMAN on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s an interesting new series that I jumped into because, well, Sue is a dear writing friend at this point.

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Thanks for popping in, and feel free to check out what were the best reads of my fellow Coffeehouse bloggers:

1. The Armchair Squid 2. WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME
3. Stephanie Faris, Author 4. Trisha @ WORD STUFF
5. Cherdo on the Flipside 6. mainewords
7. StrangePegs — Just Exactly How Life Looks 8. StrangePegs — Changes
9. A Creative Exercise 10. Life Before the Hereafter
11. V’s Reads 12. Two Square Dogs