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3.60  ·  Rating details ·  3,377 ratings  ·  599 reviews
A thoughtful, poignant novel that explores the creation of Artificial Intelligence — illuminating the very human need for communication, connection, and understanding

In a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century, to a correctional institute in Texas in the near future, and told from the perspectives of five very different
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 7th 2015 by Ecco (first published January 1st 2015)
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3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,377 ratings  ·  599 reviews

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Will Byrnes
We are programmed to select which of our voices responds to the situation at hand: moving west in the desert, waiting for the loss of our primary function. There are many voices to choose from. In memory, though not in experience, I have lived across centuries. I have seen hundreds of skies, sailed thousands of oceans. I have been given many languages; I have sung national anthems. I lay on one child’s arms. She said my name and I answered. These are my voices. Which of them has the right words
Violet wells
“We’re linked to histories we can’t ever know, forgotten stories that form our most intimate substance.”

Speak is a novel about an AI, a “BabyBot” (Hall’s futuristic terminology is not her strong point) called Mary 3, a kind of cyborg similar to what Spielberg created in his film AI. Except Hall’s cyborg is not intended for childless parents but as a companion for children. Mary 3’s memory consists of various historical documents including the memoir of the daughter of one of America’s founding
Elyse Walters
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a little outlandish...
Surprisingly touching warm qualities--
The structure of 'Speak' is unique...interlinking together six narrative voices -
Artificial intelligence is linked with humans desires for intimacy - and connections.
There is so much emotion felt. My mind was thinking - yet my heart was feeling empathy for these characters and their situations.
It's complex and will have you seriously thinking about how much our memories mean to us.
"SPEAK" touches on the feasible negative r
Andrew Smith
According to the legendary code breaker Alan Turing, if an interrogator could not tell the difference between man and machine under questioning it would be unreasonable not to call the computer intelligent. Artificial Intelligence (AI), as it’s known, is in the news quite a bit at the moment – just yesterday I was reading about how the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is looking to design a robot to ‘help around the house’. He envisages that in ten years it’s possible that a computer could be desi ...more
Larry H
May 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
If you walk into almost any public place, you'll see people on their phones, emailing, texting, surfing the web. And this behavior isn't just exclusive to solitary people—how often do you see groups of people in which some or all are on their phones simultaneously? And how often have you seen two people at a table at a restaurant, or sitting next to each other, yet they're immersed in their own electronic connections instead of taking advantage of the physical one right there in front of (or bes ...more
So apparently this book is kind of like Cloud Atlas because it takes place over different time periods with different characters, and those time periods and characters are all connected somehow by recurring images and themes. But honestly, I wish I would have read Cloud Atlas instead because that's supposed to be amazing, and while this was interesting, and I think my book club is going to get a good discussion out of it, I wouldn't say that it works as a story. I feel like Speak is a thought ex ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Intertwining stories that move backwards from banished babybots, including the prison journal of their inventor, trial evidence containing transcriptions of online chats between the disembodied mind of a bot and a young girl, the marital/divorce letters of a previous nanotechnologist and his wife, letters from Alan Turing to the mother of his close (and deceased) friend, and the journals of a newly married young woman on a journey at sea.

I loved the framework and the telling of this story but di
Jessica Woodbury
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
If I have to compare this book to something, it would be Cloud Atlas. It lacks that books complex structure, but does tell a story that involves one sprawling theme through several narratives set over the course of several hundred years. From a girl's diary in the 1600's to a discarded robot in a warehouse in the future. Both books are patchworks from many styles and genres as well. And I enjoyed both books very much.

Hall's novel is fascinating and I would like little more than to sit down with
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to explain how much of an impact this book had on me, which is ironic, given that the book is all about language and speech. While at first glance it might seem that this is a science fiction tale about artificial intelligence gone wrong, it is a beautifully interwoven narrative on ideas of what makes us human and forms our personality. What truly forms our self-identity? Do we have free will, or are we a collection of algorithms built upon the experience of our lives, our experiences, ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
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, ...more
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction

Actual rating : somewhere between 3.5 and 4

It was a different book, sometimes I liked it sometime not. I'm not usually eager about reading letter like books or even diaries and that's why I didn't enjoy this book completely.

In this book there are letters from a man to his wife/a man to his best friend(crush)' mother/ a man from the criminal facility to his divorced wife,a crippled girl chat with a robot and a diary of a newly wed 16 years old woman. They lived in different period from past to f
MLA Freebie.

The publisher rep at the MLA convention in 2017, said his boss loved this novel. I can see why. You know all those reports about computers making people lonely? Hall examines that and other ways we cannot communicate or can communicate with those around us. The book is powerful.
Hall interweaves disparate time periods and voices to track the development of artificial intelligence. The fact that all six narratives are in different documentary formats – memoirs, letters, the transcript of a dialogue, a diary, and so on – means they are easy to distinguish. One might argue that two of them (Alan Turing’s letters and Mary’s shipboard diary) are unnecessary, and yet these are by far the most enjoyable. They prove Hall has an aptitude for historical fiction, a genre she might ...more
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Apr 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
I wanted to enjoy this and really dig into the story of this evolution of an AI and the people that shaped it and interacted with it. But ultimately it was shallow and fragmented and I struggled to connect because the narrators' voices were inauthentic or contrived. Snippets were good, but the whole was lacking.
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book.

How to describe it? Well, Emily St. John Mandel (author of "Station Eleven," which I also loved) wrote, "Speak is that rarest of finds: a novel that doesn't remind me of any other book I've ever read." But I have to disagree with that. Either that or Ms. Mandel has never read "The Cloud Atlas" or anything by Margaret Atwood, which I find hard to believe. ;)

"Speak" is about artificial intelligence, but also about the connections between people and between people and machines. I
Here there be dragons. Or, as in this instance, the perils of the multi-narrative novel. David Mitchell made it seem so effortless in Cloud Atlas, where he flung together disparate voices from the distant past and the deep future. However, the effect can be quite jarring and disjointed where it does not work, as in the case of Speak.

Here we have Stephen R. Chinn, a computer programmer writing his memoirs in a Texas jail in 2040. Chinn is the inventor of the so-called ‘babybot’ robot companions,
Damian Dubois
Jul 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
NY Times review, sums up the novel pretty nicely and also might prompt me to remember the things I'll no doubt forget down the track. If only I had memory like MARY3...
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Perfect, just perfect. Five tales over five centuries, bound by yearning for intimacy and understanding, looking for it in the wrong places.

Mary Bradford travels to the New World with her new husband, who is thrust upon her the day before the voyage. She clings to her dog & her diary as her confidantes & companions, shunning the patient man trying to be her mate.

Alan Turing finds a confidante and companion early in life, despite the odds: he is awkward, intellectual, & homosexual, at
Elizabeth A
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Book blurb: In a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century, to a correctional institute in Texas in the near future, and told from the perspectives of five very different characters, Speak considers what it means to be human, and what it means to be less than fully alive.

This book gets pitched to David Mitchell fans, and I think if you go in with that expectation you are going to be disappointed. It's good, but not great. There are five intercon
Aug 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: a-good-read
The structure of this book vaguely reminded me of David Mitchell. Each individual story is interconnected by different links, whether it's the subject matter, an actual character or place or an idea. While the book, on the surface, is about our reliance on computers and increasingly realistic AI, the stories tended to speak more to the characters human interaction and their remorse at having neglected those relationships in favor of computers. At least that's what I took away from it. That and t ...more
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club, favorites
Connection is one of our most profound needs as human beings. Failure of communication and the endless quest to be known come to with the territory. Still, nothing shatters us more than when the person or thing that understood us is gone.

The Book
Much like the format in the book Cloud Atlas, Speak spans many time periods and characters, weaving a plot with the central theme of human connection and how artificial intelligence (AI) fits into our communication, connections, and ultimately, our lives
Jessica Sullivan
Judge this book by its cover: It’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.

Literary fiction with a sci-fi edge, Speak masterfully weaves five distinct stories that span centuries – from a feisty young woman traveling to America in the 17th century to mathematical genius Alan Turing to a former inventor in a dystopian future imprisoned for creating illegally lifelike artificial intelligence.

The stories all connect in subtle yet meaningful ways, exploring timeless aspects of humanity su
Britta Böhler
I really enjoyed this one, even though I expected something quite different. It is much more an exploration of memory and the history of computing than a science fiction novel. But the language is captivating, the different voices are really 'different', and Mary Bradford's 17th century diary is hilarious.
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-of-women, usa
Speak is a story about artificial intelligence, but not in the usual way. Hall isn't really interested in how it will happen - the tech, the business, the laws - far more in how we will react to it. In how it will force us to define ourselves. We're so very alone as a species - the only member of Homo still extant, the only (as far as we're able to define it) intelligent creature on the only planet where we've found life. Do we even, without leaning on 3,000-year-old texts, know what it means to ...more
A slow and thoughtful book, less about artificial intelligence itself, and more about the human stories behind the invention. This is a very unique addition to the sci-fi genre, and something I can see people who aren't usually drawn to that genre enjoying. Unlike some sci-fi novels, Speak is very much character centric, and perhaps the reasons for the developments in this changing society are less important. By the end, I came to the conclusion that there wasn't really much of a plot and most o ...more
B. Rule
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I started this book with very high expectations based on a promising first chapter. That promise slowly dissipated like helium from a leaky balloon over the following pages, such that I was seriously considering setting it aside by the time I reached the midpoint of the book. Only grudgingly did I trudge on, although in hindsight I'm not sure that was the right choice. The second half of the book gets better, but only marginally so, and I didn't feel that the novel concluded in a particularly sa ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: GR friend Will Byrnes enthusiastic review
Shelves: fiction
Could a machine think? The arguments are familiar. Machines have no soul; machines lack free will; machines cannot feel. Science fiction writers have toyed with our paranoia: What if they can.... ? Author Louisa Hall transforms the question into a vital and visceral experience in this novel.

Philosophical assumptions are examined by the machine itself in dialogues with a 13 year-old invalid, Gaby White.
“Gaby: 'What's wrong with you? I already said I don't want to talk about places outside. I'm
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, read-while-sick
I listened to this book on Audible mostly while taking short walks around my neighborhood. It's an incredible book told from multiple points of view that keep multiplying as the story unfolds. I won't recap the plot here other than to say it reminded me of Cloud Atlas in terms of the breadth of its narrative scope but has a stronger thematic focus that pulls the storylines together: a 17th century diarist en route to the new world, a narcissistic robot engineer, a girl "frozen" in a wheelchair, ...more
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Still January, and it's going to be very hard to find something to surpass this. A deeply unsettling meditation on loneliness, memory, loss, and the voices we mine from past and present in our attempts to connect with others. The comparisons to Cloud Atlas aren't quite fair. This is a very different, maybe less ambitious book, and it's all the more moving for it.
Now go home and hug your dog.
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Beginning is a little slow, but stick with it and you'll be rewarded. Reminiscent of CLOUD ATLAS, the writing is beautiful, and it amazed me.
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“We can break step. Magnificent living beings that we are, we humans are free to unravel our patterns.” 8 likes
“If there's one thing I've learned through my years of mistakes, it's that even the most perfect patterns becomes false when it goes unbroken for too long.” 5 likes
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