Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Review: A.I. Apocalypse by William Hertling

Title: A.I. Apocalypse (Singularity #2)
Author: William Hertling
Publication Date: May 24, 2012
Publisher: Liquididea Press
Pages: 262
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Leon Tsarev is a high school student set on getting into a great college program, until his uncle, a member of the Russian mob, coerces him into developing a new computer virus for the mob’s botnet - the slave army of computers they used to commit digital crimes.

The evolutionary virus Leon creates, based on biological principles, is successful -- too successful. All the world’s computers are infected. Everything from cars to payment systems and, of course, computers and smart phones stop functioning, and with them go essential functions including emergency services, transportation, and the food supply. Billions may die.

But evolution never stops. The virus continues to evolve, developing intelligence, communication, and finally an entire civilization. Some may be friendly to humans, but others are not.

Leon and his companions must race against time and the military to find a way to either befriend or eliminate the virus race and restore the world’s computer infrastructure.
I bought A.I. Apocalypse on Amazon when it was either free or $0.99. The premise sounded interesting and, while Sci-Fi is not at the top of my reading list, I've found the possibility of an Artificial Intelligence takeover interesting since Philosophy 101. Unfortunately, this book missed the mark for me.

The first couple of chapters really had me hooked. Leon seemed to be a legitimately interesting character and his run-in with the Russian mob had me on the edge of my seat! His friends were equally interesting and even Mike and ELOPe drew me in briefly. Once the virus was actually released, however, the story quickly went downhill.

There are several issues with A.I. Apocalypse. The first and most blatant is the gross overuse of technical jargon. Sure, it's a book about a computer virus, but surely there is a way to write for the average reader. I know a little about computers and I was able to follow the geek speak for the most part, but it was so dry that it was completely lost on me. I found myself skipping paragraphs first and by the end I was skipping full pages. Not only was there a lot of technical language, but it was extremely repetitive. There was more than once instance of a situation being explained multiple times to different people. If a situation is so complicated that it needs to be explained twice for the reader to understand, perhaps it should be simplified. Had the technical jargon been simplified and condensed this book could have been better.

Not only was this book far too technical for the average reader (in my opinion), but the author doesn't seem to have thought the tech of the future through completely. For example, the setting is decades into the future where simple robots and drones carry out mundane tasks and buildings are on lockdown with super fancy security systems. Meanwhile, people still communicate via email on their phones, video games are played on phones (isn't virtual reality already a thing?), and the backdoor of a fancy museum is susceptible to the breaking and entering efforts of 17 year old kid. There are also several references to current pop-culture that just don't seem to fit - WALL-E, for example.

Finally, the ending of A.I. Apocalypse was far too tidy and, frankly, completely unbelievable. As a prior military member, I cannot believe that the federal government would handle Leon in the way this book suggests. I believe anyone reading just the summary could guess at a more believable outcome. I was teetering between one and two stars before I read the last chapter, but I just can't with that ending. I hate giving negative reviews and I'm almost embarrassed to post two in two weeks, but this book just did not do it for me. I was in no way invested in the characters and finishing was a struggle.

I, Robot did it better.