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Search tags: ai-and-robots
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review 2018-06-19 01:39
Cybertron comes back to Earth
Transformers: Robots In Disguise (2011-2016) Vol. 7 - John Barber,Sarah Stone,Livio Ramondelli,Andrew Griffith,Casey Coller

At least, Optimus Prime and a small group of Autobots do.  I wasn't a big fan at first read, but I'm coming to appreciate just how brilliant a move this was: the focus stays on the Cybertronians, not the humans, and even then?   Thundercracker adopting a dog and becoming the worst screenwriter ever is just hilarious. 

 

Somehow, even when he's mangling screenplays and writing in general, Thundercracker just wins me over.   Like completely over.   

 

Loved this, and read it early on in the month, right before the Hugo packet hit.   

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review 2018-06-16 21:11
I Still Dream
I Still Dream - James Smythe

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Although I didn’t adore this book, I found it to be an interesting take on artificial intelligence; on what contributes to developing an AI; on the trials and errors involved, and on how the best intentions can be tainted by poor execution, like what happens with SCION. Because, to paraphrase what Laura says about it in the novel, if you teach a child to fight and retaliate, what does it teach them about life and how to react to whatever comes their way?

The story had its ebb and flow, sometimes a little too slow to my liking, but always intriguing. I usually don’t mind when a story jumps from one time period to another, and/or doesn’t always rely on the same narrator, as long as I can follow it. And here, I didn’t have any trouble following, even when the first person narrator didn’t introduce themselves at first (like what happens with Charlie or Cesar). This approach lets the author play with more than just Laura’s take on both Organon and SCION—which was good, since it’s easily apparent that Organon is built upon all that Laura poured into it, and having only Laura’s POV would have felt, to me, slightly… constricting?

My opinion about the plot remains mixed, though, in that the novel seems to hover between being character-driven and being story-driven, while not fully achieving either. I liked the take on developing artificial intelligence—I don’t know much about coding, and I wouldn’t know how to even start about something so huge, and it felt plausible to me. On the other hand, I kept thinking that I wanted the character development part to go a little further than it did, because I felt that there remained some invisible barrier between me and the characters.

This said, I still got to see enough about Laura and the beings (whether the people or the AIs) surrounding her to get a fairly good idea of the characters, too, and of their struggles through life, especially when it came to dementia and similar memory- and recognition-related troubles. So, I definitely wouldn’t say either that the book was a failure in that regard.

Perhaps the one part that really disappointed me was the last chapter, which dragged on making the same point several times. I think it would’ve been more powerful had it been much shorter.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend the book, for the way it puts AI creation and destruction in parallel with the growing up and the decaying of human minds. (Also, listening to ‘Cloudbusting’ while reading it doesn’t hurt.)

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review 2018-06-10 00:45
Inuyashiki (manga, vol. 1) by Hiroya Oku, translated by Stephen Paul
Inuyashiki, Vol. 1 - Hiroya Oku,Stephen Paul

Inuyashiki is a 58-year-old man who is unloved by everyone in his life. When he moves his family to a new home, all everyone does is gripe about it - how small the place is, how cheap he is, etc. He has a young son and teen daughter, both of whom are embarrassed by how old he is. They also don't respect him and don't bother to hide this fact. When Inuyashiki proposes that the family get a dog, no one will come with him, so he ends up selecting a Shiba, Hanako, on his own. It seems that Hanako is the only being in the world that Inuyashiki has to live for, until one fateful evening, when he and a teenage boy end up forever changed.

I picked up the first couple volumes of this in a Humble Bundle a while back. There's Humble Bundle with more volumes of this and other series up right now, and I'm still debating whether to get it.

 

This first volume of Inuyashiki didn't leave me wishing I had more in my collection. The characters were, for the most part, horrible. I doubt any of the people in Inuyashiki's family ever genuinely loved each other, and the world of this series seemed to be entirely populated with bullies. The only character I even vaguely liked was the dog, and something about this series makes me suspect that the dog isn't going to make it through the whole thing.

The artwork definitely wasn't to my taste. There was something slightly unsettling and repulsive about it, even before Inuyashiki discovered that there was something strange going on with his body. Maybe this was intentional, but the result was that I didn't really want to spend more time than necessary looking at pages and panels.

The sci-fi aspects were weird and a little hand-wavy. The goals of the beings Inuyashiki and Shishigami, the teenage boy, encountered were never stated outright, but they seemed to want to avoid causing a stir, or perhaps to avoid affecting humans with their appearance too much. Either way, they failed miserably, and their failure seems likely to grow more pronounced in later volumes.

I'm really not impressed with this series so far.

Extras: 

Two pages of translation notes.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-06-08 21:14
LIFEL1K3
LIFEL1K3 - Jay Kristoff

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Overall, I enjoyed this book, although ultimately it didn’t live up to quite a few of my expectations.

The worldbuilding isn’t tremendously developed here, but what is shown was enough for me to draw a satisfying idea of what it must be like. Post-apocalyptic future, in that, without surprise, humans have been destroying their planet to the point of tsunamis ravaging California (the story is clearly set in its remnants) and solar radiations giving anyone cancer if they walk out unprotected even for an hour or so. It’s a harsh world to live in, where people eke out a living by foraging scraps, prostitution, being in gangs, or competing in the WarDome game by piloting huge robots meant to punish AI robots who stopped obeying the Three Laws (yes, that’s Asimov’s Laws—they tend to work well in various sci-fi worlds, methinks).

Piloting one of those ‘machinas’ is exactly what Eve, the main character, does to earn money and pay for her grandfather’s medication, encouraged by her tiny robot Cricket and her best friend Lemon. Except that her latest fight doesn’t go well at all, and she finds herself manifesting a strange power that sends religious fanatics and bounty hunters on her trail… although not only. This is how she meets Ezekiel, the ‘lifelike’ (an android built in such a way that he looks completely human not only on the surface, since he has blood-like liquid in his veins, metal bones and not simply motors, etc.) This merry band runs away, trying to escape their pursuers as well as to find what happened to Eve’s grandfather, in a world that would look great on screen: radioactive deserts with storms full of glass debris, enemies on motorbikes with rocket launchers, a city made of a whole landlocked float, the ghost town of what used to be a powerful corporation, a living underwater ship… The author doesn’t disclose that many details about geopolitics or history in here, however what he shows us worked for me, and let me imagine this world where Eve and her friends have to live.

In terms of characters, mostly I didn’t care for them, except Lemon. She comes off as the most human and balanced (both strong and fragile), with a cocky attitude and a to-the-death loyalty that felt genuine.

Also, special mention for the novel crossing Anastasia with Pinocchio. I don’t think I had seen or read that yet, and I found the idea interesting, as well as working fairly well.

Where I wasn’t happy with the book:

1) The romance. As often in YA, it was too much of the insta-love kind, without chemistry, and since we get to see how it started only through flashbacks, there was very little in it to make me like it. Eve took a bullet to the head and her memories are sometimes frazzled, and Ezekiel is too many shades of ‘I love you and you’re the only one who gave meaning to my life so now I’m here and I’ll do anything for you’ (commendable, but not very interesting nor even plausible, considering we never got to -feel- how it developed).

2) Ezekiel. Here we had an excellent opportunity to show a character that is not human, yet was built to be like humans, only without the emotional maturity that we develop over ten, twenty, thirty years. Granted, this is mentioned a couple of times, when it comes to the other lifelikes and the way they learnt to love (quickly, brutally, in a way that could drive them mad if the relationship broke, since they didn’t have the emotional background to soften the blow)—but then, this came through -them-, instead of through Ezekiel’s experience.

I think part of the problem stems from the fact we don’t have chapters from Ezekiel’s POV. Eve, Lemon, even a few minor characters now and then: sure. But not Ezekiel. So, in the end, we really get that ‘doll-like’ character who, sure, is an excellent fighter, but whose motives to help Eve never raise past the state of plot device. I would have loved to really see his point view rather than been told about it, see his inner questioning, how he sees the world, how he accepts (or not) his condition of nearly-but-never-human being, especially since this would’ve worked with a certain plot twist also prompting another character to question what being human means.

(A note here regarding the sexual relationship between Ezekiel and Eve; we don’t see it, but it’s more than just vaguely implied. I know that for some people, this is a complete turn-off. I must say I did find it interesting, not so much abnormal and disgusting than intriguing and raising lots of questions about, well, being human, what it means, how it is defined, etc. Did the lifelikes have sexual relationships because they were programmed to, in a perfectionist desire to copy human biology? Was it something that developed ‘naturally’ in them because they looked so much like humans and lived among them? Did they read about it, and so were conditioned from the beginning to believe it was the next step, and from there, would it mean that they could’ve learnt other forms of physical love if given the chance? So many roads to explore, but that weren’t… -sigh-)

Conclusion: In terms of action and of a world easy to picture, this was a fun and entertaining read. However, I regret it didn’t go further than that.

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text 2018-06-03 01:37
Downloaded the app
Transformers Robots in Disguise: Where Crown City Comes to Life - Caroline Rowlands

This is the first app-enabled VR book in the Transformers universe.   (That I can remember?   I've been running on anger and stress, and now it's depression so I'm just worn out and may not be an authority on anything right now?)

 

Anyway, I needed this after the shitshow that was my brother's wedding.   

 

I got drunk af to get through it, and witnessed some of the scariest things I've ever seen - that was all because my brother pushed someone into a corner.  

 

I deserve this.   My sister's home, but she's no longer talking to anyone in the family and isolates herself in her room, so it's like I'm alone.   

 

The newest season of Supernatural sucks, so I'm just gonna focus on this right now.   This book is pretty basic, but I'm hoping the VR aspect makes up for that.

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