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The Expert System's Brother

(Expert System #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,480 ratings  ·  281 reviews
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn't understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine.

Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
Paperback, 167 pages
Published July 17th 2018 by Tordotcom
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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If I were a teacher, I’d say, “I expected better.” Comparisons are insidious, no doubt, but his book Children of Time was one of my ‘Best Reads’ of 2017, and ‘Walking to Aldebran‘ was quite the little twist of of novella. So rated against himself, he has a lot to live up to, including incredible world-building, interesting characters, and fascinating biology, and this piece just doesn’t get there. Nonetheless, it remains a well-written piece on a youth confronting the harsh realities of his vill ...more
Oct 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
“It is a great poison, to know you have a destiny and that everything you do is right by default.”
The inhabitants of this world may act like they live in a fantasy setting, in apparent symbiosis with trees and wasps and hives, with the all-knowing ghosts taking over some of them an leading them into a future that is the same as the past. Except, of course, this is Adrian Tchaikovsky who gave us sentient spiders and space-faring octopuses (or maybe octopi or octopods?) and whatever the mindf*
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this author! He has such a brilliant imagination.

In The Expert System's Brother we visit a planet centuries after its settlement by humans who had discovered it was virtually uninhabitable. As a result they made a number of serious changes to their descendants to make them able to survive and be comfortable, with some resultant unexpected results.

The world building was really good and the idea of a planet which has stood still in time was marvellous. I particularly enjoyed the very cleve
Dannii Elle
Protagonist, Handry, is all but cast-out from his society after an accident. He is shunned and ignored, but saved from isolation, for a time, by his sister. However, she is infiltrated with the ghost of decision-making and becomes society's new doctor, after the demise of the last one. With her new role Handry looses the last link to all he is familiar with and forced to live a life adrift.

This was an odd and unsettling little novella that I felt never allowed me to feel properly settled in the
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2021-02: 4 stars. Enjoyed this again. Reread this so I could refamiliarize myself with Handry and Melody, and the world, prior to reading the next instalment.

2018-10: 4 stars. Having learned about expert systems many years ago, the title of this novella told me a lot about what this story could be about. And though there wasn’t anything really surprising about this story (e.g. the behaviour of the charismatic and driven leader of the Severed individuals was fairly easy to predict, and what the e
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
On this world humanity exists in small tightly controlled communities with a high level of interdependence. When a young boy has an accident that partially severs him from his community he ends up leaving it and journeying in a way that few others do, discovering a lot about himself, the world and how it came to be the way it is.

Adrian Tchaikovsky writes brilliant science fiction. While I didn't like this as much as most of his other novels and novellas I've read, that isn't much of a slight; it
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant world building full of mystery and otherworldly strangeness, and character development with real emotional resonance. Two critical aspects of a compelling story, rarely done in equal regard with such mastery, and accomplished here with an amazing economy. Plus, as I've come to expect from Tchaikovsky, a mind blowing reveal that made me scream "No f'ing way!" and re-cast the story in a wholly different, unexpected light. Apparently there's a sequel coming, The Expert System’s Champion, ...more
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novella, 2018-read
A short piece that nevertheless manages the richness in worldbuilding that I have come to associate with Tchaikovsky's work. While I didn't like this one quite as much as the novella Dogs of War, it was still very good. Tchaikovsky again shows how very skilled he is at capturing the voices of his characters, and so we see here with the point of view character, Handry, use of a very different style and phrasing than in other works.

The story itself is fairly straightforward and I wasn't surprised
K.J. Charles
Apr 02, 2021 added it
Shelves: novella, sf
Post-tech dystopia novella, sort of thing. A boy in a primitive society using hugely advanced tech they don't understand is thrown out of his village and in the course of his wandering comes to learn about the world he's in. It's really about cults and in groups and society. Fascinating and engrossing: this author is damn good at short form world building. ...more
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another masterclass in world-building from Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the superlative Children of Time, with its sequel Children of Ruin out in May 2019. It is great to have Tchaikovsky bring his particular brand of hard sociological SF to the novella line-up, which continues to attract some of the most interesting writers in the genre.

I really enjoyed this, and hope it forms part of a larger project that Tchaikovsky continues to develop. Unfortunately, effective alien points-of-view
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This turned out unexpectedly touching and personal; managed to pull me in completely. No small part thanks to the emphasis, which the author's dedication put on some of the themes present in the narration.

Apart from being full of excellent self-reflections, the story has some quite appealing character chemistry and wonderful, gut-wrenching developments.

Though most significance for my experience with this might stem from personal reasons, this still felt very wholesome and sincere overall, beside
kartik narayanan
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
The Expert System's Brother is an underwhelming book/novella. By Adrian Tchaikovsky's standards (I loved The Shadows of the Apt, Dogs of War as well as The Children of Time), this is downright abysmal.

It rehashes an old story (men marooned on another planet) and throws in predictable plot elements with a health dash of old school IT. I found the world building to be quite average as well as its pacing.
Oleksandr Zholud
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a novella, which I hope will be nominated for major SF&F awards for this year.

Just like his SF novel Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky masterfully mixes classical SF tropes and modern concern with social issues. A young boy is accidently changed, which alienate him from his village and the world itself, like a form of allergy from everything. While the village seems low tech, it is hinted from the start (even by the book’s title) that there is some high tech hidden behind the scenes,
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea what to expect when I started this one, as I've never read anything else by the author, but I was very impressed by the story. I thought that it had some really interesting things to say about community, autonomy, power, progress, and humanity. Very much my kind of book, and I will definitely be reading more by Adrian Tchaikovsky in the future. ...more
Peter Tillman
Pretty good fallen-colony story with a clever twist ending. I liked it. 3+ stars
Jun 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5*(stars)...And I think downgraded mainly because I compare it to the quality of work which this author has put out before and after....Great ideas throughout the story, as always in his work. How he manages to pump out the quantity of varied work of above-average to fantastic quality, is mind-boggling...he has quickly become my favorite, living, author...
Marty Fried
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
3.5 stars, but rounded up for originality. It was interesting, but I thought it was too abbreviated; perhaps it was purposely made short, though. It was basically a glimpse into a time and place that was pretty unusual, but I had trouble relating to the people and not much actually happened.
Matthew Quann
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, pretty-short
A sci-fi novel that occasionally feels like fantasy due to the perspective of its narrator. There’s some excellent expository passages in this novella that make it feel like a fresh sci-fi experience, even though it could have just been a standard planetary colonization tale. I loved the perspective of the narrator, Handry, and the way his people’s viewpoint of the world shaped my reading experience.

I picked this one up based solely on my theory that the novella line rarely publishes s
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-2018
I could've read 500 pages of this. Feels like a modern Planet of Exile.

EDIT: in fact, it feels like a Hainish Cycle/Ursula K. Le Guin book in general-- short-ish, yet still packing a lot of worldbuilding/story in such few pages, and telling a vivid story about humanity and the universe.
Holly (The GrimDragon)
Releases 7.17.18.

"He was stick thin, skin stretched taut over bone, but his belly had burst open. He'd crammed himself full of edrauthaberries. The purple stains of their juice overlaid the red marks of Severance on his hands and mouth. They had clogged up his innards in an indigestible mass and eaten away at him, bloating him out with toxic gas until the pressure had ruptured his insides and he'd finally died."

First of all, the cover by Raphael Lacoste is fucking stunning! I WANT TO GO TO THERE
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having reread this to reacquaint myself with the plot and characters so I can read the sequel I reassessed the 5 star to 4. I still think this was a good book that has a lot to say about autonomy, power and just how damaging our need to belong to community can be but, if I’m being honest, it didn’t quite blow me away like it had the first time I read it. Still, I think he manages to build an interesting world and I liked how this felt very much like it could be a fantasy novel while actually bei ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a lovely little YA book. I'm really starting to thoroughly enjoy everything Mr Tchaikovsky writes (across so many diverse sub genres of sci-fi and fantasy). This was charming and entertaining and interesting. Much fun ...more
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Tchaikovsky can always be relied upon to lift my spirits.
S.J. Higbee
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is another of Tchaikovsky’s interesting offerings where he provides us a rich, well-developed world through the eyes of Handry in an immersive first-person viewpoint. I really liked Handry – what happened to him was clearly very wrong and somehow the fact that it took a long time before the inevitable happened made it somehow worse… This is classic Tchaikovsky – what happens when an injustice occurs? How does this future colony cope with a victim of circumstance? For starters, you begin to ...more
Aug 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-series
Short novel with a tall amount of world building, I enjoyed reading this. Did *not* know it was a series, and will now have to read the sequel :) The cover is amazing!

I picked this up from the SF shelves at the local library on a whim; hadn't heard of it and had barely heard of the author. Read it in less than a day, then loaned it to a friend who did the same. Our post-read discussion centered on the characters - a little flat - and the twists we thought might happen, but didn't.
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonend
Ookaay... I loved this one. I'm beginning to understand why many people love the Adrian's books. I think I will read his other books as well. It wasn’t a strong story because a lot of things were just on the surface. But I really liked the basic idea and it had something to say. Last but not least, I liked Adrian's writing style. (This reminded me of Brandon Sanderson's.) Anyway I looking forward to the sequel, because I loved this story with all it's faults.

“People die, boy. That’s what happens
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think this is his weakest book so far. The TOR novellas have been hit and miss, majority miss. This was poorly paced by his standards and the small length eliminated the world buidling that he's so good at. ...more
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The Expert System's Brother, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, is an interesting Science Fiction novella. In this world, villages of humans are run by "ghosts" - machines implanted in humans by host wasp colonies. Humans live in harmony with nature, and these ghosts become doctors, lawgivers, architects etc. - the leading peoples in a society. Our main character, Handry, is accidentally exiled form his village by Severing - this is where a material is poured on the body which forces the worlds systems to r ...more
Antti Värtö
This was the first time I read anything by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I'm impressed. Especially since other reviewers have commented being a bit disappointed with Expert System's Brother after reading other works by Tchaikovsky. If this was a lesser work, how good are the better works? The only slight complaint I have is with the ending, which was a bit predictable and sort of abrupt.

ESB was a story about people living in pre-industrial conditions, except for the "ghosts", who possessed some people
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is my second Adrian Tchaikovsky after the mindblowing „Children of Time“. And when I read in other reviews that this novella is one of his weaker works then I’m really looking forwarding to others of his novels.

I loved this one. The POV made this perhaps typical story into something special. The struggle of the protagonist to consider right or wrong in a world where right or wrong isn’t obvious was so well written. I would not have been surprised if he would have taken the other road in the
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "The Expert System's Brother" by Adrian Tchaikovsky (BR) 31 35 Dec 10, 2018 08:16AM  

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ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY was born in Lincolnshire and studied zoology and psychology at Reading, before practising law in Leeds. He is a keen live role-player and occasional amateur actor and is trained in stage-fighting. His literary influences include Gene Wolfe, Mervyn Peake, China Miéville, Mary Gently, Steven Erikson, Naomi Novak, Scott Lynch and Alan Campbell.

Other books in the series

Expert System (2 books)
  • The Expert System’s Champion (Expert System, #2)

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