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review 2017-08-11 10:03
The Quest for Immortality, variant no. 843: “A Calculated Life” by Anne Charnock
By Anne Charnock - A Calculated Life (Paperback) (2013-10-09) [Paperback] - Anne Charnock

“’That’s the heart of the problem. I haven’t lived enough. My character is just the combination of my intellect and my faults. I haven’t had time to become more complex, more interesting. […] I’m not sure if you realize this but without my flaws I’d be pretty dull. You should know that.’”


In “A Calculated Life” by Anne Charnock



For the sake of argument let me be devil’s advocate.


The scientific materialist assumption is that the body is the primary organ and consciousness is secondary. This is not so; consciousness is the primary experience and the body and all other experiences are secondary. The body is a construct of consciousness. Forward thinking scientists are just beginning to realise this. Man might be able to prolong life but a 'machine' existence will never happen because the 'reality' of phenomenal existence is simultaneously 'real' and 'not real'. People, including scientists tend to see everything in terms of being a binary system. Yes/no, off/on, is/isn't, 0/1, true /untrue. Reality is not that simplistic. Mm, that's some good pseudo bullshit. Preventing aging is almost certainly more achievable soon than consciousness transfer, but ultimately the latter offers greater security and opportunity. Immortal DNA is all very well, until you suffer catastrophic injury or brain damage. With transferable consciousness, you get the immortality, along with the option to backup and restore in the event of a fatal accident, as well as the ability to travel at light-speed as a digital signal to be reawakened on arrival. And that's before we even get into the idea of truly inhabiting the virtual world as digital consciousness. With an infinitesimal fraction of the earth's current energy use, you could have untold trillions living in a virtual utopia, with a near infinite diversity of cultures, worlds and lifestyles. Nevertheless, is it misleading to talk about 'transferable' consciousness? What would be uploaded would be a facsimile of your consciousness. As far as the exterior world, interacting with the facsimile, would be concerned it would be you. However, it would actually be a totally new instance of you, with no continuity of your original consciousness. It's what's always troubled me about the idea of Star Trek-type teleportation - the thought that disintegrating someone in one place and then reassembling them in another, would effectively mean the death of the original, internally-experienced consciousness (although nobody else would notice or care!). 



If you're into SF, read on.

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review 2017-07-30 23:34
Novella review: "The Enclave" by Anne Charnock
The Enclave - Anne Charnock

This is a hell of a pessimistic story. It is a story of haves and have-nots, of before the ecological collapse and after, and it argues relentlessly that without at least a bit of material prosperity, there is no such thing as human kindness or decency.


We don’t see the world of the “haves” in this story; these biochemically-manipulated and cyber-enhanced people are depicted in the novel A Calculated Life, which I haven’t read. In “The Enclave,” we only see them through the points of view of a boy who’s heard some second-hand snippets about them, and a woman who failed at being admitted among them (it’s easy to get excluded). Whether or not their lot is really enviable is not clear. It’s only certain that they carefully lock have-nots out of their spaces, consigning them to extra-urban enclaves and requiring a pass for travel to the cities.


Charnock is more concerned with depicting the before-and-after contrast in the life of her main character, twelve-year-old Caleb, who used to live in Spain before heat and drought sent everyone in that country fleeing north. Before, he had two parents, a school, friends, and friendly games. After, he had a missing father and an existence walking the road with his mother, unwelcome wherever they went. Although Caleb’s mother imagines that his papers, pedigree, and education will be sufficient to get him admitted to the cities, she disappears before finding out if that’s true, and Caleb is picked up by a child-trafficker and turned over to work in a recycling business in an enclave.


Caleb is bright and creative. And his childhood taught him to believe in friendship. He offers the gifts of his talents and his caring to the people in the enclave, and gets less than nothing in return. No one besides Caleb and his mother do a single act of generosity in the entirety of this story. The enclave and the surrounding countryside are a world where friendship doesn’t exist (there’s a scene where Caleb contrasts his games with old friends with the way the children in the enclave “play” by fighting and beating each other), where romance is sex and sex is a transaction, and where family is only a way of defining who belongs to your own gang, and you'd better obey the head of the family if you want to stay in.  Not surprisingly, the story ends with Caleb’s moral ruin.


What does the author get out of depicting poverty as a world of absolute exploitation and dog-eat-dog? Is it just a cautionary tale to middle-class people, don’t lose your prosperity? I must say I didn’t  find this setting entirely convincing. Nothing about it was original, the hinted-at technologically-enhanced society didn’t seem particularly plausible, and more importantly, the relentlessly negative interactions of the enclave residents didn’t add up to much more than a checklist of social evils. There were very few well-developed characters; even Caleb seemed more of a signifier than an individual, with his past amounting to a checklist of middle-class “normality.”


This isn’t a particularly bad story; it’s smoothly written and moves right along, with just the right amount of content for its length. But it isn’t outstanding in any way either.

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text 2017-07-01 15:07
Captivating, people-centered science fiction
Dreams Before the Start of Time - Anne Charnock

This captivating series of linked stories starts in the future and continues moving forward in time, exploring the ways plausible (if sometimes disturbing) advances in conception and birth options would change individual lives and the relationships between family members and lovers. The book spans several generations in the families of two devoted, but very different, best friends, Millie and Toni, who we meet in the first story. Each successive story features someone the reader has already met, making the implications of previous character choices, or in a few cases non-choices, poignantly clear.


Some characters stumble into relationships and parenting, others are highly purposeful. Some go down the old natural paths, others opt for high tech genetic enhancements for one or more of their children.


This is people centered science fiction, and almost all of the stories are thought provoking and don’t-want-to-stop-reading compelling. Most moving for me was finding out what happened to a genetically optimized “bottle baby”, meaning a fetus with traits chosen by his parents who was “carried to term” in a lab rather than a human womb. Gerard was orphaned before he was born and left unadopted in his “bottle” by the main characters of an especially haunting story. We meet Gerard again in another story much later in his life, as an adult, after he’d been raised in an institution setting among other orphans with genetic upgrades. Gerard has been living a perfectly constructed life, but  now he’s grappling with the unexpected.  A  one night stand about 10 years ago resulted in a son he has only recently learned about, a boy who contrasts in marked and unexpected ways with the carefully planned son he’s raising with his wife.


I read an advanced review copy of this book supplied to me at no cost by the author. Review opinions are mine.

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text 2017-04-13 14:31
Strange and dangerous though its world might be...
The Enclave - Anne Charnock

Strange and dangerous though its world might be, I was fascinated to be back in the technologically advanced, genetically enhanced, climate challenged future Manchester that Anne Charnock first explored in A Calculated Life. In that book the main character is Jayna, a simulant or lab created human who has been completely bio-engineered to have beyond genius level intelligence so she can process huge amounts of data for her employer, but in this novella we get a look at lives on the far other end of the human spectrum.


Caleb and Lexie have both been deemed unworthy for the cognitive implants that most natural born people receive to enhance their abilities. They eke out a living in the Enclave, a violent, gritty slum community far from Manchester’s hub. With a nod to current events, Caleb is a young illegal immigrant who had to flee Spain when climate change rendered his home virtually unlivable. Caleb and Lexie work together, but though they have a stronger bond than normally found in subordinate-boss relationships, the nature of their reality makes it hard for them to trust anyone.


Charnock writes what I think of as science fiction for grownups, stories in which realistic (if often futuristic) characters and thought-filled themes are as important as her high tension plots. While The Enclave isn’t exactly a sequel to A Calculated Life, those who’ve read the first book will recognize Jayna and her coworker Dave in a brief encounter they have with the characters in this novella. Even Dave’s bees make an appearance.


One thing left to explore in this world is the lives of the elite--the natural born (not lab created) humans who have been equipped with cognitive implants. They have best jobs and the nicest homes, but I wonder how life in this tenuous world would feel to one of them.

I received a complimentary copy of The Enclave from the author, with no obligation to write a review. Review opinions are mine.



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review 2016-01-31 23:28
Favorite books of January, part 2, three more books I loved
Speak - Louisa Hall
Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind - Anne Charnock
Between Mountain and Sea: Paradisi Chronicles (Caelestis Series Book 1) - M. Louisa Locke

1) Powerful, poignant, and deep, Speak has an unusual structure, weaving together six narrative voices that together illuminate a link between the creation of artificial intelligence and the fundamental human yearning for connection. When I started the book its nonlinear format put me off, but it took just a few chapters for me to become totally hooked. The narrators include a Pilgrim or Puritan girl leaving her former life behind to journey to America, AI pioneer and WWII code-breaker Alan Turing, and a now illegal, slowly “dying” babybot--a doll of the future so lifelike and compelling that children who had one couldn’t bond with people--as it slowly loses power and memory. 


I don't normally pay much attention to epigraphs, but I love Speak's. One is from Notes From Underground by Dostoevsky, while the other comes from what I think is Disney's Snow White: 

“Slave in the magic mirror, come from farthest outer space, through wind and darkness I summon thee. Speak!”


2) Beautifully written and haunting in the sense that it leaves you with things to think about, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind completely captured me. Blending science fiction, art, and history, its three connected storylines span time--with one in the past, one in the present, and one in the future--but all revolve around the fifteenth century painter Paolo Uccello and his artistically talented daughter Antonia, two real life historical figures. A lot of research went into this novel, and I actually learned something about painting composition, art history and the possibilities of future technology.



3) I loved Between Mountain and Sea, and really didn’t want to leave the characters behind. Fortunately it’s the first of a sci-fi series that’s part of the Paradisi Chronicles, an intriguing multi-author project about 10 extended families who exit our devastated home world to set up colonies in New Eden, an Earth-like planet that already has native hominids. These original people are an interesting human variation, and several of them play important roles in the novel.


M. Louisa Locke, author of the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series that starts with Maids of Misfortune, is here telling the story of the Yu family, who have their roots in China. Mabel Yu was one of the original settlers and traveled from Earth as a young teenager. About 150 years later Mei Lin Yu, Mabel’s descendant, discovers Mabel’s diary, a fascinating document that tells the real history of the colony, not what Mei Lin has been taught at school. These new insights help Mei Lin question the path that’s been laid out for her, one that doesn’t suit her at all. Though Mei Lin is YA age, romance plays almost no role in the action--it’s more a coming of age book. As indicated by the title, the setting is vivid and wild, and while parts of the plot were a little predictable, I was so caught up in the world and the lives of the characters that I didn’t care.


Source: jaylia3.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/favorite-books-of-january-part-2-three-more-books-i-loved
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