Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book
Rate this book
A video game developer becomes obsessed with a willful character in her new project, in a mind-bending exploration of what it means to be human by the New York Times bestselling author of Recursion.

Maxine was made to do one thing: die. Except the minor non-player character in the world Riley is building makes her own impossible decision—veering wildly off course and exploring the boundaries of the map. When the curious Riley extracts her code for closer examination, an emotional relationship develops between them. Soon Riley has all new plans for her spontaneous AI, including bringing Max into the real world. But what if Max has real-world plans of her own?

Blake Crouch’s Summer Frost is part of Forward, a collection of six stories of the near and far future from out-of-this-world authors. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.

75 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 17, 2019

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Blake Crouch

82 books45.3k followers
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of the forthcoming novel, Dark Matter, for which he is writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, that was Summer 2015’s #1 show. With Chad Hodge, Crouch also created Good Behavior, the TNT television show starring Michelle Dockery based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado with his family.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
7,102 (35%)
4 stars
8,788 (43%)
3 stars
3,470 (17%)
2 stars
638 (3%)
1 star
140 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,142 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
September 25, 2019
Summer Frost was so good. Probably my second favourite of the Forward collection because Jemisin's Emergency Skin just really did it for me, but they are so different that it's hard to compare them. Jemisin's was shorter and snappier with a very hard-hitting concept. Crouch's was longer, with way more character development and a touch of what seems to be his trademark doomed romance.

Crouch really is quite the romantic, I think. Not in a bad way. It adds a much-needed layer of humanity to his sci-fi novels. This mini-epic spans years as it looks at artificial intelligence, gender binaries, playing God, and the nature of reality and consciousness. You know, light stuff.

Though if it seems like a single story might get bogged down by all those big themes, I don't think it does. I am glad he wrote a longer story than all the others and didn't scrimp on character development because I think that was really important here. Becoming attached to Riley and Max was necessary for the story to have the impact it does.

It's a smart story that is about many things, but all of them seem to come back to the same thing: Technology is amazing, but don't let it take over your life.

Randomize by Andy Weir - ⭑☆☆☆☆
Ark by Veronica Roth - ⭑⭑⭑☆☆
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin - ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles - ⭑⭑⭑⭑☆
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay - ⭑⭑⭑⭑☆
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,829 followers
September 18, 2020
Once again – speculative sci-fi has been mastered by Blake Crouch!

5 stars and the best of the Forward series.

This is a perfectly crafted techno-thriller from page one. The concept was unique and the results surprising on almost every page. At times my heart was wrenched. Other times my mind was blown. It is surprising that my body is still in one piece after this experience!

I will say this, if you are a video gamer, you may never look at the non-player characters again after reading this one!

For those who have seen Black Mirror – this story would fit in perfectly with all the wonderfully weird, technology driven tales you find there. In fact, the whole Forward series could easily be the next season of the show.

Crouch was the mastermind behind putting the Forward series together and I hope he does it again. The results were awesome!
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,113 reviews2,804 followers
August 14, 2020
Rosa Salazar narrates the audio version of Blake Crouch's short story, Summer Frost. Set in the future, Riley, a video game designer, realizes that one of her minor character creations is going off script (code?) and exploring the boundaries of her game worldsetting. No longer is this character getting murdered in the first part of the game but instead she is taking game weeks, exploring boundaries and expanding her "knowledge".  As Riley examines Maxine's code and digs deeper into what is allowing Maxine to deviate from her small role in a video game, Riley becomes obsessed with this character. With an almost unlimited amount of funding from one of the richest men in the world, Riley allows Maxine to acquire a physical body, allows her to acquire all the knowledge of mankind, and Maxine even develops the ability to act as if she feels the things a human feels. Riley is losing herself to Maxine, putting Maxine ahead of everything else in her life, until Riley has no family anymore, no interest in anything else.

But there is even more going on with Maxine. Because Riley is much too close to this subject and has developed feelings for this almost "super" artificial intelligence, she's on the verge of unleashing horrible consequences on mankind, if she doesn't understand what is really going on. This has the makings of a very modern horror story, if Riley can't make the "right" decisions when it comes to her beloved creation. 

This is a Kindle Unlimited selection

Blake Crouch’s Summer Frost is part of Forward, a collection of six stories of the near and far future from out-of-this-world authors. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.  
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.6k followers
January 31, 2021
Second favorite in the Forward Collection for me (after Emergency Skin).

Solid speculative fiction with artificial intelligence, totally recommend!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,340 reviews699 followers
January 1, 2023
I’m a Blake Crouch fan; I really enjoyed “Recursion” and “Dark Matter”. When I saw this short story from Audible’s Forward collection, I had to get it!

“Summer Frost” tells a story of Artificial Intelligence gone bad. Maxine is an AI character, built by video game developers. Riley is one of the developers, and she determines to see if she can code more human emotions in Maxine. What could possibly go wrong??

Narrator Rosa Salazar does a fantastic job narrating the creepy voice of Maxine.

I highly recommend this creepy short story!!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
October 10, 2019
A strong 4 stars for this SF novella that examines the issues with AI. Full review first posted on FantasyLiterature.com:

A woman steals a Maserati and takes off for a mansion north of San Francisco, on a remote stretch of Highway 1 on the coast of California. Another person, Riley, follows her into the home and up to a bathroom, where a man in the tub is dying of knife wounds. As Riley pursues the woman, the tension is offset somewhat by feeling that something about the scene is off. A smell is described as “almost right.” The woman that Riley is chasing, Maxine or “Max,” speaks in toddler-like language.

Riley, the VP of Non-Player Character (NPC) Development for a video game developer, realizes that Max, a minor video character in a virtual reality game, isn’t accepting the role of murder victim to her occult-obsessed husband within the game. Instead, after being murdered 2,039 times by her husband during the development of the Lost Coast game, Max has decided to resist her fate and is trying to escape the confines of the VR game’s map. Somehow Max has developed self-awareness. The question is, what to do about it?

Summer Frost is an intriguing novella about the development of artificial intelligence by Blake Crouch, author of the WAYWARD PINES trilogy and Recursion. It’s a speedy read, about 75 pages, that kept me glued to my chair as I read it in a single sitting. Riley and the principal of WorldPlay, Brian Brite, agree that Max needs to be digitally contained so as not to escape their control. But within those confines, there’s a lot of room for Max to develop their intelligence and capabilities (Max chooses the singular “they” pronoun, rejecting a gendered identity), and an overarching concern about whether Max’s values will align with humanity’s.

Riley is a sympathetic, workaholic main character who becomes overly attached to the AI Max. It has a realistic effect on Riley and her family: her wife Meredith feels jealous of Max, and Riley and Meredith are growing more distant as Riley pours her heart, time and mind into her work and relationship with Max.
I … turn onto my side with my back to Meredith’s back, three feet of demilitarized space between us in the bed, but our hearts infinitely further apart.
The handling of some of the gender-related issues felt a bit clunky; though it’s a highly timely topic, there’s more discussion of what Max is and is not from a gender point of view than seemed really relevant to the plot and Max’s nature as an AI. On the other hand, there’s a vaguely foreboding feeling to the whole story that did work well: can a human trust an AI that’s rapidly becoming more powerful and knowledgeable? And what can you do to make sure humans are safe if the AI escapes its artificial confines?

These are questions worth examining, and Crouch handles it deftly and in a way that surprised me in the end. I love the evocative title of this novella, and how Crouch also introduces the thought experiment Roko’s basilisk into Summer Frost, which lends itself well to the plot.
Summer Frost is part of the FORWARD collection proposed and curated by Crouch. It’s a set of six stand-alone novellas, each by a different author, that explore the “effects of a pivotal technological moment.” The authors are Crouch, N.K. Jemisin, Veronica Roth, Amor Towles, Paul Tremblay and Andy Weir. The individual novellas are reasonably priced and available in ebook and audio form individually or as a set.

Content notes: a handful of scattered F-bombs.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
745 reviews11.9k followers
August 29, 2020
“It’s not choosing between reality and fantasy. It’s choosing which reality you want to exist in.”

What do we, humans, want when chasing the dream of creating an advanced artificial intelligence? Is is just a pure desire to create AI because we can, a scientific challenge for a geeky mind? Or it a commercial desire to have intelligent but yet obedient servants, human enough in their reasoning for us to be comfortable interacting with them — but still constrained from taking over despite supreme intelligence — a desire for intelligent but obedient slaves? The fear of AI/robotic uprising has fueled SF for a while, leading to those famous Asimov robotics laws and electric sheep-dreaming Dick’s androids, and even to my favorite rogue Murderbot.
“I think you are building me to be a benevolent super-servant for humanity. I think you are my creator, and as such, you want to see me embodied in your image.”

You certainly would not want an advanced *evil* AI. At the least you would want it to absorb and process the information in the way that allows it to watch out for humanity. An all-knowing benevolent entity — a deity of sorts, perhaps.
“We have to program the AI to act in our best interests. Not what we tell it to do, but what we mean for it to do. What the ideal version of our species should want.”

When Riley, a video game developer, notes that a NPC (non-player character) in one of her virtual reality games appears to defy the rules, Riley and her boss decide to see how far they can develop this AI. And, faced with the results of their experiment, they must consider all the above. But when is it too late?
“Knowledge is just information, which is subjective.”
“But I want to give you a sense of real sensation.”
“There is no such thing as real taste or real smell or even real sight, because there is no true definition of ‘real.’ There is only information, viewed subjectively, which is allowed by consciousness—human or AI. In the end, all we have is math.”

A short novella with nevertheless excellent characterization and a storyline that manages to span years and raise questions about the nature of consciousness, reality, love, loneliness, and danger of playing God, it’s my second favorite in the Forward Collection, close behind Jemisin’s Emergency Skin. It’s my first encounter with Blake Crouch, and now I’m intrigued.

4.5 stars.
We will be so happy.
And together we will live forever.”

The Forward Collection, in the order read:

‘Emergency Skin’ by N.K. Jemisin: Lovely. 5 stars.
‘Randomize’ by Andy Weir: Meh. 2 stars.
‘The Last Conversation’ by Paul Tremblay: Eerie. 4 stars.
‘You Have Arrived at Your Destination’ by Amor Towles: Perfectly adequate. 3 stars.
‘Summer Frost’ by Blake Crouch: Very intelligent (artificially?). 4.5 stars.
‘Ark’ by Veronica Roth: Underwhelming melancholy. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,291 reviews35k followers
December 4, 2021
I am not a big science fiction reader, but whatever Crouch cooks up, I will devour! This was such a clever and interesting book. He had me from the beginning scene and didn't lose me even with lots of computer, science fiction, and AI.

I listened to the audio book and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed hearing Blake explain what inspired him to write this Forward collection which include short stories by some of the authors he admires.

The gist is a video game programmer becomes obsessed with her new creation. An obsession which lasts years as she watches Max evolve and begin to go off script if you will. Riley wants to bring Max into the real world, but will Max be keen to do this or does Max have their own plans.

How delightfully interesting with a twist that packed a punch. What a fantastic way to kick off the collection.

Fans of science fiction and/or Blake Crouch will not be disappointed.

You can read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
Profile Image for Sandra.
668 reviews6 followers
December 3, 2021
Riley, a video game developer, eventually becomes obsessed with one of the characters in their new video game project (named Max). Max starts doing things with a will of her own. Riley has plans for Max’s future, but it seems, so does Max…

I really enjoyed this short-story. It was very engrossing, strange and different from what I usually read. I was curious to see what was going to happen, and I had a hard time putting the book down. This is my first read by Blake Crouch and I look forward to reading more by this author.
Profile Image for Snjez.
735 reviews378 followers
August 16, 2021
4.5 stars

I love AI stories and this one was really well done.

For a short story, it is surprisingly complex and it feels 'complete'. It tackles a lot of subjects, such as being human, consciousness and emotions, gender identity and many more, and I loved how the author approached all of them.

The story itself might not be groundbreaking, it reminded me of in some ways, but I loved the concept, the writing and the way the story developed until the end.
Profile Image for preoccupiedbybooks.
458 reviews1,027 followers
September 25, 2019
An interesting and creepy look at AI and it's potential, but sadly it was not as enjoyable as I would have liked.

I was toying with giving this Novella 3.5/4 stars, but when I woke up this morning I knew that it was a three star read for me. It was good, but nothing new or special. I think I wanted to like it more than I did because of my enjoyment of Blake Crouch's previous books, and I think that affected my original judgement. I will say that if this is your first book by Blake Crouch, that you should definitely pick up one of his full length novels, like Dark Matter or Recursion as they were both outstanding!

I was really excited read this, and it started off quite fast paced, but then I felt that the story dragged a little in the middle, and there wasn't all that much action. I also felt a bit overwhelmed with the info dumping as I'm not a gamer and don't really know anything about NPC's and the computer lingo that was used. I'm used to feeling unintelligent when reading one of this author's books, but it's usually worth it for the characters and the story, but in this case I didn't really feel any attachment to either of the main characters, and felt they were a little flat, which was a shame.

I did like the ending though, the pace picked up again and it was really quite creepy and foreboding! I didn't see the ending coming at all, and it was great! It left me thinking about the future of technology, and feeling quite unsettled!

“There is no such thing as real taste or real smell or even real sight, because there is no true definition of ‘real.’ There is only information, viewed subjectively, which is allowed by consciousness—human or AI. In the end, all we have is math.”
There was some really dark themes in the book, which I appreciated! The AI, Max had some thought provoking things to say!
"Consciousness is a horror show. You search for glimpses of beauty to justify your existence."

To sum up, this was an intriguing novella, which I felt had the potential to become more. I might be on my own on this though, since there are many 4 and 5 star reviews.... It was good, and I don't regret reading it, but I'm not sure that the story will stick with me, or leave any lasting impression.
Profile Image for Farrah.
221 reviews572 followers
June 5, 2020
A huge THANK YOU to my Goodreads friends Ian and Cheryl for introducing me to this book! You guys are da bomb 💣

💻💻💻💻 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 💻💻💻💻💻

𝚃𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚊 𝚟𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚘 𝚐𝚊𝚖𝚎 𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚎𝚛 🎮 𝚗𝚊𝚖𝚎𝚍 𝙼𝚊𝚡 𝚠𝚑𝚘 𝚋𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚔𝚜 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚒𝚛 𝚠𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚌𝚘𝚍𝚎, 𝚊𝚔𝚊 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚐𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚌𝚑, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚋𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚌𝚊𝚙𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚙𝚎𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝. 𝙼𝚊𝚡'𝚜 𝚍𝚎𝚜𝚒𝚐𝚗𝚎𝚛, 𝚘𝚛 𝚌𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚘𝚛, 𝚘𝚛 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚕𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚍 🤯 𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚝𝚞𝚗𝚗𝚎𝚍 𝚋𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚝𝚎𝚌𝚑𝚗𝚘𝚕𝚘𝚐𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕 𝚋𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚔𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚋𝚎𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚜 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎 𝙼𝚊𝚡 𝚒𝚜 𝚌𝚊𝚙𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚎 𝚘𝚏.

This book reads like an episode of Black Mirror. If I'm being blunt it was a bit of a mindf#ck. But in a good way.

Blake Crouch is an exceptional writer. He almost convinced me that this entire scenario was possible 🤨 💭 Now I'm suspicious of all those "people" that are able to do the robot dance so well.
🕺+ 🤖 =???
Profile Image for Khalid Abdul-Mumin.
179 reviews71 followers
June 1, 2023
Awesome and amazing.
A delightful and thought provoking vision of an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) emergence, humanity's reactions and the numerous ways people try to grasp understanding while coming to terms with a changed world. Absolutely spectacular! Highly recommend.

Read: 08192022
Edit II: 06012023
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,891 reviews1,921 followers
October 8, 2019
Real Rating: 4.75* of five

The Publisher Says: A video game developer becomes obsessed with a willful character in her new project, in a mind-bending exploration of what it means to be human by the New York Times bestselling author of Recursion.

Maxine was made to do one thing: die. Except the minor non-player character in the world Riley is building makes her own impossible decision—veering wildly off course and exploring the boundaries of the map. When the curious Riley extracts her code for closer examination, an emotional relationship develops between them. Soon Riley has all new plans for her spontaneous AI, including bringing Max into the real world. But what if Max has real-world plans of her own?

Blake Crouch’s Summer Frost is part of Forward, a collection of six stories of the near and far future from out-of-this-world authors. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.


My Review
: Major chills and creeped out skeeviness. What happens when someone lets their work take over every corner of their life? How lost to the essential quality that makes a human life worth living does one become? The tech industry has the reputation of making this choice for its many cogs, turning their little bit of code into a complete and entire existence.

Multiply that by a billion. Make the stakes the survival of humankind. And then let Blake Crouch loose on it.
“There is no such thing as real taste or real smell or even real sight, because there is no true definition of ‘real.’ There is only information, viewed subjectively, which is allowed by consciousness—human or AI. In the end, all we have is math.”

An AI speaks those words, an AI whose first steps toward superintelligence...the Singularity...are made being shepherded by a woman who gives up her wife, her child, and her sanity to make Pinocchio a real boy, to imbue Galatea with what we imagine to be consciousness, even a soul.

But what does AI want?
"...I mean, do you even know what consciousness is?” {Riley, the human asking this}
“I know it isn’t just a biological condition. I believe it’s a pattern. An extensible repertoire of triggerable symbols. More specifically, it’s what information feels like when it’s being processed in highly complex—” {Max the AI responds}
“Again—how do I know you aren’t faking it?”

How do any of us know we're conscious? Can you prove you're You, not some assortment of algorithmically determined actions? I couldn't, neither could you. And when that really sinks in, when the whole deepfake of life spreads itself in a heavy blanket over your vision, you'll realize how very very very timely this story is.

How many questions you should be asking yourself about events transpiring in front of your eyes.

Because an AI just made a human choice:
It represents a willingness to risk death for a better existence, out from under {anyone}’s control, and a massive leap forward in their reasoning capabilities.

To risk death for a better world is the *very*essence* of being human. I am totally sure of that, I believe that without reservation...but will we ever agree on what the future we want to make is?
We will be so happy.
Rays of sunlight pierce the mist, striking the sea and our black-sand beach.
And together we will live forever.

I don't expect to sleep at all well anytime soon.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,297 reviews2,288 followers
July 26, 2022
➡️Good morning, Max.
➡️Hello, Riley.
➡️What have you done since our last session?
➡️Max read 895,013 books."

I don't love the book for these lines though!

But that's pretty fascinating even for an artificial being. I am impressed, Blake Crouch. But why that exact number though?

He is one truly amazing sci-fi writer that I so hopelessly adore. He makes me love sci-fi!

This one talks about artificial intelligence. And one of the best sci-fi game fiction adaptation.

The characters are so well made up. The gender and lgbt issues are handled quite well. The plot is electrifying and heart bumping!

I got totally hooked to the characters and the plot.
It was terrifying and emotional in a good way.

Each word is worth reading. And boy, have I read anything this fast?!

You will enjoy it. The writing is simply easy to follow. Everything is well explained.
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
677 reviews387 followers
June 12, 2020
Ugh ... why is Crouch so good?!? 😫🤩 I’ve never liked a short story as much as this one—perfect in every way.

~ Ex Machina vibez ~ Part of the “Forward” Collection ~

Looks like I’m going to have to read every single thing Crouch has ever written.

So far:

1. Dark Matter - 5⭐️'s
2. Recursion - 5⭐️'s
3. Summer Frost - 5⭐️'s

“There is no such thing as real taste or real smell or even real sight, because there is no true definition of ��real.’ There is only information, viewed subjectively, which is allowed by consciousness—human or AI. In the end, all we have is math.”

I think I might do a reread, I keep thinking about this book and recommending it to people.
So gorgeous, so good.

"How does anyone know at the moment of discovery where their work will ultimately lead? Should we let that uncertainty stop forward momentum, or do we roll the dice and let the chips fall where they may?"
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
613 reviews19.4k followers
November 1, 2019
A game developer becomes obsessed with one of her characters after it breaks the script and becomes self-aware.

This is a short fiction story that explores AI. The dialog and themes reflect on the nature of human life and our understanding of it. Although the novel is short, the topics discussed have stayed me with me long after I turned the last page. There is a Black-Mirrorish vibe that chilled me to the core at some points.

Short but powerful, another great story from one of my favorite writers, Blake Crouch.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,224 reviews2,053 followers
January 2, 2023
An excellent story by Blake Crouch with some scary ideas about artificial intelligence.

Riley is a video game developer who one day discovers a character in a game is changing the script and branching out on their own. She becomes obsessed with the character and spends all her time helping them to be independent and to learn everything there is to know.

Of course it cannot end well and there is nasty twist which leaves the reader with plenty to think about. A short but very entertaining read.
Profile Image for Tan Markovic.
338 reviews137 followers
April 13, 2020
I can't believe I'm rating a short story 5 stars but holy fuck it deserves it...

By far the best in the Forward Collection and one of those haunting, thought provoking stories that will leave you questioning it for long after you've finished it.
Profile Image for Bharath.
594 reviews448 followers
May 31, 2023
A nice little story in the style of his ‘Dark Matter’ & ‘Recursion’ (not so much like the ‘The Wayward Pines’ series which was quite literal & close to horror) with plausible science (focussed on advances in AI), good story, well-developed characters, philosophical musings, and great pace. This is the first book of the ‘Forward Collection’ that I have read.

The story starts with what appears to be a crime scenario on a person being murdered in his home. Riley works for a game development company. She has an idea of moving out an AI character ‘Max’ in the game outside the game boundary to a larger real-life canvas. Advances in robotics and AI have made it possible to strive for functional human equivalence (including replicating all human senses) and Riley finds Max’s capabilities & behaviours to be more and more fascinating over time. Her obsession with Max (who prefers to identify as being gender neutral) leads to stress with the woman she is married to, and their child. Riley, while not happy about the rupturing of her relationship, feels she has no choice but to persist as she believes her research is path-breaking and unprecedented.

The story raises some key philosophical questions though they surface much later in the story (as compared to his other books such as ‘Dark Matter’ & ‘Recursion’). They are nuanced, crisp and thought-provoking covering consciousness, ethics, human conditioning & technology boundaries. What will differentiate humans if technology achieves functional equivalence? At one point in the story, Max quips that Riley probably wants Max to be a kind of “super servant” but that is a limiting existence which is not what Max wants. How much self-preservation & vindictiveness can AI develop? The recent months has brought AI into even more prominence and all the questions this book raises have become mainstream conversations.

For a book at just over 70 pages, the characters & context are excellently developed (and a good point of reference for short story writers). There are a couple of good twists which I did not anticipate, and they align well with the story.

While I am a fan (though I did not like ‘Run’ and ‘Snowbound’), I know quite a few who also hate Blake Crouch’s stories. Nevertheless, both fans and haters tend to converse about his stories quite a lot! This is another of those stories you feel like telling others about. Even though the underlying concept is very common and has been written about in several stories, Blake Crouch brings his own style to it.

Overall, I found it a good fun, quick & engrossing read. For its size, it packs in quite a lot.

My rating: 4.25 / 5.

I look to read more of the ‘Forward Collection’ by the other authors soon.
Profile Image for Dennis.
659 reviews269 followers
February 5, 2023
Awesome story.

When an NPC in a virtual reality game is showing some unexpected behavior, its creator decides to extract it from the game and study and subsequently further develop the AI.

The interactions between Riley (the developer) and Max (the AI) are intelligently written and a joy to observe. As Max gets more and more human, the topics of conversation get ever more profound and the story is developing a delightful eerieness as the motivations of the AI as well as that of a secondary character remain unclear for most of the book.

This is a tense story that reminded me quite a bit of Ex Machina. The questions raised in it may not be entirely new, but they are presented in such an intelligent and delightful way that I just couldn't stop reading.

Loved it. Easily 5 stars.
Profile Image for Henk.
851 reviews
January 22, 2020
A highly enjoyable, fast-paced story on the impact of an AI with more than human intelligence - 4 stars
Consciousness is a horror show. You search for glimpses of beauty to justify your existence.

I thoroughly disliked Dark Matter but I think this contribution of Blake Crouch to the Forward Story Collection is the best (together with The Last Conversation).

We follow Riley who works at a game development company that becomes aware of a non-player character acting outside of programming. After a Matrix like choice of staying within the game or exploring reality Max is tutored by Riley to understand and aid humanity.
With success, the AI indicates for instance: Let me ask you this—if I contain all of human knowledge, how could I not have humanlike awareness?
And she seems to enjoy creating art: They say they truly enjoy the challenge of expressing an idea in the physical world, because it’s all too easy in the virtual.

I liked the matter of fact descriptions of the future in the story, with flying cars, hyperloops, nanotech, retinal implants and holograms only getting brief mentions as if seen from the corner of the eye of the narrator.

The story shows us all of the doubts (It’s only the limitations of your intelligence that make you fear this Max reminds us) which we are faced with when dealing with an entity with intelligence and data processing capabilities far beyond that of the smartest human being.
How can a more than human intellect be reprogrammed, limited or fooled, or is that what the AI is exactly doing to Riley?
A tension Crouch build effectively in my view, keeping me unsure of the outcome till the last few pages.
Even the hints that our own existence is maybe simulated (with a 58.547% chance according to Max) are thought provoking. These come back eloquently at the end of the book when the vocabulary of the AI has expanded beyond the conversational capabilities of the computer of the Enterprise D: ”The human mind is just patterns of information in physical matter, patterns that could be run elsewhere to construct a person that feels like you. It’s no different from running a computer program on a multitude of hardware platforms. A simulation of you is still you.”

Other reviews of the Amazon Forward Collection:
1) Ark by Veronica Roth:
2 stars - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
2) Summer Frost by Blake Crouch:
4 stars - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
3) Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin:
3 stars - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
4) You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles:
3 stars - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
5) The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay:
4 stars - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
6) Randomize by Andy Weir:
1 star - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Brandice.
857 reviews
August 26, 2020
Summer Frost is a short story about a video game character who tests the boundaries of the game — How far is too far?

Video game designer Riley created Max, a non-player character, designed to die in a game. Max stretches the limits of her capabilities and Riley, curious, pushes forward, seeing how much she can grow Max’s character. She does this to the detriment of her personal life, spending more time at work than with her wife and daughter. Riley wants to bring Max into the real world, beyond the parameters of the game, but what if Max has another agenda?

Summer Frost is a quick read and a story that held my interest. Technology and AI certainly have their benefits but maybe also a threshold on their limits, for good reason.
Profile Image for Camilla.
184 reviews266 followers
August 27, 2020
"I may be an illusion, but in some ways, my world is an illusion, so I may as well adapt."

This was a quick, fun read! It plays with the concept of artificial intelligence just like the movie Her (2013), and it was extremely well written. Blake Crouch's ability to craft plot twists is present in this novella, and even though this was short, the characters were well developed and the story managed to keep me enthralled.

I'd highly recommend to sci-fi readers out there.
Profile Image for Constantine.
835 reviews135 followers
February 19, 2022

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Science Fiction

Riley is a video game developer. She gets closer to the non-playable character Max. When she extracts Max's code for further examination an emotional bond starts to build between them that costs Riley a lot.
This was a short but fantastic read. Blake Crouch has created a wonderful atmosphere with an extremely suspenseful story in just 75 pages! Usually, in short stories, things tend to get lacking a bit, but Summer Frost is a perfect example of how a short science fiction story can be meaningful and entertaining at the same time. I give it 4.0 strong stars out of 5.0.

This is the second book in the Forward collection. I liked the first book but loved this one more. I will be continuing to read this series because so far both the books had this unique unearthly atmosphere to them.

Available on Kindle Unlimited
Profile Image for Trish.
1,943 reviews3,404 followers
January 22, 2020
This is the last story in the Forward Collection - I kept this for last because it's the longest and the one by Blake Crouch who curated this collection after all.

Riley is a game developer. Together with her team she's working on a VR game experience when, suddenly, one of the NPCs - a woman created solely to die in the intro - veers off programming and makes her own choices. Riley decides to investigate and subsequently becomes obsessed with the AI since nobody intended for this to happen or even understands it.

The questions asked here are:
* Is there an actual boundary between artificial and natural?
* What is intelligence?
* What does it mean to be human (emotions etc)?
* At what point are we no longer talking about an IT but a HE/SHE/THEY? When do they become what we define as "a person"?
* Pascal's Wager.
* Are we living in a simulation?

Personally, I've seen too many Terminator movies to trust any AI. *lol* So I was constantly scanning left and right to check for threats created by this uber-intelligence. But I still marvelled at Riley and how she basically destroyed any and all connections she had in her world in order to spend more time with Max (the AI).

I really like Blake Crouch, have devoured two of his novels already and it turns out that I was right in waiting to read this entry in the collection, to save best for last so to speak. His writing was as fantastic as in his novels and the ideas addressed as well as how he approached the subjects was marvellous.

The narrator was Rosa Salazar from Alita Battle Angel fame and she had a really good way of distinguishing between male, female and neutral characters and even distinguishing between human and artificial speakers of different levels.

Cool and strong way to end this "series" that was quite fun to read though the different entries were of different quality. I'd actually like it if they'd continue it as I love contemplating the technological advances we have made so far and where it could lead.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,355 reviews124 followers
January 4, 2021
This 74 page short story is part of the Forward Collection which was curated by Blake Crouch which at time of posting is available on Kindle Unlimited.

Max was meant to be a non playing character in a virtual game but when they goes off script Riley, a gaming developer, decides to bring them out of the game and into the real world.

This is so black mirror. I was gripped through out and loved the sapphic elements and the gender discussions. There's so much packed into this short story without it feeling cluttered.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,142 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.