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Proof of Concept

liked it 3.00  ·  Rating details ·  236 ratings  ·  55 reviews
On a desperately overcrowded future Earth, crippled by climate change, the most unlikely hope is better than none. Governments turn to Big Science to provide them with the dreams that will keep the masses compliant. The Needle is one such dream, an installation where the most abstruse theoretical science is being tested: science that might make human travel to a habitable ...more
Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by
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Cam Get is for free somewhere like a library if you're a big Jones fan; otherwise I'd say just skip it. …moreGet is for free somewhere like a library if you're a big Jones fan; otherwise I'd say just skip it. (less)
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liked it Average rating 3.00  · 
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 ·  236 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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May 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read
2.5 stars

One of those books I really want to like more than I actually did. I love the concept, the characters have great potential, and I like some of Jones' wordsmithing.

But...the concept was not as well explored as it could have been; the characters did not come alive and remained quite two dimensional; and the clever wordsmithing did not make up for the sort of confusing muddle of a story.

So I didn't hate it, but I could have given it a pass and not missed anything.
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, scifi, novella
For such a short novella, Proof of Concept is packed to bursting with plot threads, thematic questions, and worldbuilding elements. The story takes place in a fascinating dystopian world where pollution and global warming have pushed the world's population into giant "hives" separated by toxic "Dead Zones" where impoverished non-citizens try to eke out their short existences. MegaCorps have a chokehold on culture and politic, and even scientific endeavor must be turned into pop-culture and seek ...more
short novel that is packed with ideas and ends in a very interesting way begging more books set in the same universe; in a future earth on the verge of definitive catastrophe, the super rich want to flee it for pristine planets and the new physics ("information space") gives them a chance to do so if theoretical ideas about instantaneous translation can be put in practice; and so an experiment is funded in a deep cavern isolated from the rest of the earth; things happen though not quite as expec ...more
Sci-Fi & Scary
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although it is only 176 (kindle) pages long, Proof of Concept feels like a novel length read. Not in the ‘it’s just slow and boring and feels like it’s taking forever way’ that one might assume, either. Instead, Gwyneth Jones does a great job of giving the reader so much story in a relatively short amount of pages. As soon as she establishes the setting, she’s off and running. The pace is fast, the dialogue is good, and there’s enough death to make a sci-fi & horror hound happy.

Gwyneth Jones exp
Rachel (Kalanadi)
2.5 stars - This was a disappointment, honestly. Rushed, didn't establish the world or characters very well, and the ending came out of left field. I think this would have worked better as a novel, as there would have been more time to establish the world and set things up so that events felt truly shocking and meaningful. As it is, I was just kinda confused and stopped caring by the halfway point. ...more
Michael Hicks
30% in, and I have no idea what's going on. The narrative is all over the place, the dialogue is clunky, and the story just isn't capturing me. This is a short read, but I'm giving up after two chapters. Thanks to Tor for the NetGalley ARC, but this novella just isn't for me. ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review is going to have to be spoilerific so I can talk about this book.


This has an interesting idea that is poorly realized.

The global ecosystem has pretty much collapsed, so some scientists convince the ultra-wealthy One Percent to build an underground lab to test some next-gen physics that will enable humanity to travel faster than light (apparently by teleporting via quantum entanglement).

The Needle, as it's called (because something something "needle in a haystack"), is
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, fiction
I’ve had this obscure novella by Gwyneth Jones on my to-read list for a few years and recently located a copy on eBay. I’m not generally a completist, but have read a good many of Jones’ novels. Her Bold as Love series is one of my favourite visions of the future: a guardedly utopian Britain in which technological civilisation has largely collapsed and government is by attractive rockstars. I highly recommend it. Her other sci-fi tends to be intellectually interesting but isn't as emotionally co ...more
Life is too short for bad books and I stopped on page 80 of 138 when I realized I was forcing myself to pick it up. I don't think Jones spent enough time developing the world or the characters, the premise had a lot of promise but I had a hard time following the narrative or caring about anything that was happening. This might be a good pick for fans of Jones' writing style, but it didn't work for me. ...more
Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 11th April 2017

I’m not sure if it’s my reading comprehension or the book at fault, but I did have some trouble understanding the technology and political background to this. There’s stuff which is obvious (overcrowding has forced people into hive-like cities, people want to go to nearby habitable planets) and then there’s the science and the politics of funding the venture and… whatever all that means.

However, on the personal level it worked: Ki
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A rare miss for the novella line.

Earth is a disaster, ravaged by over-population and climate change. Humanity lives in decaying hive arcologies amid the poisoned and dying planet. A project that promises to be the first steps towards getting the masses of humanity off-planet via FTL is started deep under the Earth in an abyssal cavity and some of mankind's best and brightest are recruited, including our view-point character, a young girl with a quantum computer embedded in her brain.

Bridget Mckinney
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I found the amount of in-universe jargon used for worldbuilding was just about impenetrable. Your mileage may vary, but I prefer more actual story and less futuristic technobabble.
Sean Collins
Tried to pack too much conceptually into a short amount of pages. It has the bones of intriguing dystopian future world building, and could even map out better visually via anthology like PKD's Electric Dreams / Black Mirror, but as a novella didn't work as well. It would be interesting to revisit as a full length novel that takes more time to effectively introduce the lingo and tech used. ...more
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-copies
I'm underwhelmed. I struggled to connect with this novella from the start; maybe I'm just overtired / jetlagged, but it felt chaotic. The twist was telegraphed early, but there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary contortion and obfuscation that reduced the focus on the personal drama and flattened the characters. It's not a bad book, but it just didn't work for me.

Full review (less whelmed the more I think about it)
Irene Grumman
"On a desperately overcrowded future Earth crippled by climate change, the most unlikely hope is better than none." (Back cover blurb) That hooked me into an intelligent, interesting novella whose heroine is a brilliant survivor with a strange companion. I'm delighted to discover this author and look forward to seeing her other stories. ...more
Tsana Dolichva
Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones is a science fictional novella put out by I picked it up based on a recommendation from a friend, and the vague belief that maybe I'd like Gwyneth Jones more now that I was older.

Proof of Concept had some interesting ideas in it but they did not overall make up for certain less interesting aspects of the writing and story. To start off, I found the start difficult to follow. The actual opening scene was OK, as far as these things go, but the subsequent
Morgan Dhu
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gwyneth Jones’s novella Proof of Concept is a densely packed narrative, weaving multiple thematic threads together into a single coherent story. The protagonist, a young woman named Kir, was chosen from a life of brutal poverty to be the host to an AI called Altair - serving as the biological platform for a software too complex to run solely on inanimate hardware. That brutal life was the result of being an outsider, a ‘scav,’ in a world ruined by ecological collapse leading to a severe populati ...more
On a failing, crumbling, future Earth, where climate change has pushed the remaining human civilizations into every smaller and more dangerous areas, the remaining hope for humanity lies in an experimental science installation currently testing new capabilities for navigation towards distant, habitable exoplanets. Kir is one of the scientists confined to The Needle for the duration of the project, but she understands her role at this underground compound has less to do with her skills and everyt ...more
Kate M.
2.5 stars, really. I was disappointed in this, because Gwyneth Jones's Bold As Love series is absolutely magnificent, among my very favorites, and the two other of her novels that I've read were not quite as much my thing but still interesting and worthwhile, but Proof of Concept was considerably weaker in my opinion. Part of that was the novella length. The ending was too abrupt (and also not to my taste). While the protagonist, Kir, was fairly well developed into a complicated person, all of t ...more
David Agranoff
Let me be clear about something I was rooting for this novella. I have enjoyed ALL of the Tor novellas I have read before. They have all been great high-quality fiction. There is much to like here in this high concept Cli-Fi story, but ultimately I found it to be a mess that was kinda hard to figure out. It is not a good sign that I went to read other good reads reviews just to see if I understood what I read. I am still not sure I understood what happened. That is not always bad, sometimes you ...more
Everdeen Mason
Proof of Concept (Tor), by Gwyneth Jones, features another portrayal of an overcrowded, crumbling Earth. Here there’s a seemingly hopeful twist, as scientists are trying to find a way to get people off the planet to a habitable world. One such researcher is Kir, who works out of an underground bunker with a group of other scientists. Kir is brought on board because her brain is the home of Altair, a quantum artificial intelligence implanted in her when she was a child. When people start dying, K ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-sci-fi
Novella that's pretty weak tea; it's part of a series by TOR that's been stronger with other authors. The size is always problematic for me; neither a short story nor a novel and often featuring the weaknesses of both. So, for me, this one just didn't work. The lead Kir was okay as a scavenger child in a degraded and worn down future Earth, but the story would have been better with more about that part of her life. Most cities have been abandoned for huge structures called hives that exist indep ...more
Ken Richards
This one did not quite do it for me. The 'Proof of Concept' is the possibly successful experiment to verify that it is feasible transport people from a collapsing Earth to habitable exoplanets. The experiment is isolated from the rest of humanity in a void under the Tatra mountains. A team of scientists, and a crew of media aparatchiks make up the complement manning the 'Needle'.

Among the scientists is Kir, a refugee from one of Earth's 'Death Zones', who for unknown reasons has a quantum compu
This was very underwhelming.

I don't even know where to start, honestly. Here's a list off the top of my head since I didn't take any notes:

1. One-dimensional characters. Lots of Mary Sues and Gary Lous running freely here.

2. Not enough world-building. Like...none. We're dropped into a world that is supposed to make sense because it's Earth, doesn't. At all.

3. For a science-fiction book, it didn't explain the science properly. Which, actually renders the book kind of pointless.

4. Why a
Locked away in an underground bunker (a massive cave) for a year-long experiment to find the secret of star-travel, Kir, a young scientist with a super-computer in her brain tries to figure out what’s really going on.

Is it me? I read a lot of science fiction, but there were times when I simply didn't follow this. Not sure it makes me like it if it makes me feel stupid. And I REALLY wanted to like it. The blurb for the book explained things fsr more clearly than the text did. Sadly the jargon, so
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a really fascinating take on environmental degradation/overpopulation that underlies the world building. However, the science they reference is way above my head, and they have so much terminology that flies by. With a novella it’s even harder because there’s just so little space within.

Perhaps if this was a full length book, I would have gotten more out of it. But character wise, I couldn’t connect with Kir either. She was a potentially riveting character, and with a supercomputer in h
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A young girl with an AI in her head is sequestered underground with a split team of dedicated scientists and reality-show wannabe astronauts to work on an experiment that may make faster than light travel. Except it won't even if successful - though it could make it possible in the far future. Their world doesn't have a future, though, as runaway climate change and expanding dead zones hems people into more crowded city enclaves. So what's the point of this whole effort? And why are so many of t ...more
Jamie Rich
Proof of Concept (ebook) by Gwyneth Jones

However much time and money I spent on this book was a waste of both. Yes, you did hear me correctly. It's not very often I pan a book, but this book deserves it. The characters are flat, and not really developed at all. The plot is often confusing, and not well managed. It was just barely interesting enough that I finished it. But just barely. I think the author has some real potential, and would love to see her develop her story telling skills. Until t
This was weird. The world and characters weren't well established, and the science got too confusing for me to even follow along. The writing felt disjointed and I didn't really enjoy the way thoughts were cut off half way through sometimes. The whole concept and overall story was okay, but the ending felt rushed and I didn't really understand how we got there from where we were. Nothing was really explained well, and if this had been longer maybe there would have been time for more explanations ...more
Jason Vanhee
Jul 20, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bloated despite being short; obvious; poorly developed; full of (possible accurate) technobabble that fails to enhance the narrative or provide interest; and set a couple centuries from now but feeling more as if it would have to be fifty to seventy years from now, there was just nothing I enjoyed about the novella. It was short enough that, since it was the only book I had with me on a work day, I ended up reading it all, but only because it was my one choice for a book.
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Gwyneth Jones is a writer and critic of genre fiction. She's won the Tiptree award, two World Fantasy awards, the Arthur C. Clarke award, the British Science Fiction Association short story award, the Dracula Society's Children of the Night award, the P.K.Dick award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in sf criticism. She also writes for teenagers, usually as Ann Halam. She lives ...more

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