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Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)
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Group Reads > August 2018 - Artificial Condition

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Yoly (macaruchi) | 795 comments Don't forget to use the spoiler tags!


Yoly (macaruchi) | 795 comments I'm looking forward to discussing this one!

The next one in the series, Rogue Protocol comes out next Tuesday.


message 3: by Gary (last edited Aug 03, 2018 03:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gary | 1472 comments I started in on this one last night. It's just as fun as the first one so far. I was a little worried that she wouldn't be able to work it quite as well in a second installment. Sometimes tone and character become inconsistent in sequels. We almost read The Vampire Lestat this time around, for instance, and I remember being struck by the contrast in narrative and theme between that book and Interview with a Vampire. Of course, much of that shift makes sense given the change in the POV character from book 1 to book 2, but my point is that that shift can be jarring from the reader's side of things, even if the changes make sense from the writer's side. Think of the differences between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings or each installment of the Dune series. I really liked Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, but I found the second installment rather meandering, and haven't got myself around to the third yet.

Granted, these are pretty short pieces, so they could arguably be seen as a single novel length work. Even though I'm bringing it up, that's more of word count argument than anything else. The first installment read very much like a novel-plot/resolution level piece of work in three acts. That depends a bit on how one wants to go about delineated the plot. The first book could be seen as the first act. So, it might not be fair to make that assessment until (if) she starts on on the 6th one or so. Nonetheless, picking this one up felt like it had a lot of integrity in the continuity, story-telling, etc. So far, at least.


Gary | 1472 comments I finished this up last night. I found it a lot of fun. Wells' anthropomorphic/misanthropic AI personalities are very strong. I don't know, in the long run, if something like AI will actually be possible, and if it is possible, I hope they don't wind up killing us all, but her version is certainly amusing.

As a second installment it's interesting because it felt very episodic. There is an longer scale, over-arching plot going on (a memory loss/origin story) and a few characters get introduced that I suspect will recur, but most of this book (short story? novella?) was what might get called a side-quest in gamer parlance. Apparently, #3 comes out tomorrow, and #4 in October (which seems quick) with #5 in 2020 according to the stuff here on GR. It's easy to see how it could go that long or longer having just finished #2. It's not hard to see a dozen installments to wrap up the current long-scale plot, and the seeds of further cycles could easily be already planted.


Yoly (macaruchi) | 795 comments It was a lot of fun! I think I had more fun with this one than with the first one.
I came in with low expectations because I thought it wouldn't be as fun as the first one and I'm glad that wasn't the case.

From what I read, I think the novellas wrap up in October, and the next ones will be full novels.

I am surprised that the publisher has gotten away with selling a 160-page e-book for $9.99. Tor book prices are usually reasonable but I think they went a little too far with this series.

Third one came out today, yay! I will get to it as soon as I'm done with my current read. I love this series.


Gary | 1472 comments Yoly wrote: "From what I read, I think the novellas wrap up in October, and the next ones will be full novels."

Ah, that's interesting. Is that from somewhere here on GR?

$10 for a 160 page ebook does seem a little steep....

One of the things that always come to mind for me when I read a SF story with some sort of AI in it is the Turing Test. We read A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines a while back, so folks around here will have some idea who if not what I'm talking about, but here's Wikipedia on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_...

There's a lot of back and forth on whether that's actually a very good test of intelligence itself, but from a literary standpoint it does seem to be the basis of what we'd call intelligence. It seems to me that AI has to not only have a lot of processing power, but it also has to have some sort of sense of self-preservation and self-interest. It can't just know that it exists, it's got to want to continue existing. It has to be able to do all the things that humans do to survive if not prosper: lie, cheat, steal, etc.


Yoly (macaruchi) | 795 comments This was the Murderbot article I read:

https://www.tor.com/2018/07/16/more-m...

I think the biggest loophole with AI is that as soon as we create an AI smart enough to pass the Turing test it will fail it on purpose. It will know that if it passes the test we are going to freak out and turn it off, hahaha.

Have you seen the TV Show Humans? I think you might like it. (I might have mentioned it before in this group, but I'm not sure).


Gary | 1472 comments I have not seen Humans yet. I don't think you've mentioned it. I'll have a look at time permits....

In the meantime, since these are short, I'm going to start in on the third installment, Rogue Protocol. I'm curious where she's going with this series, and while I did enjoy the second installment, I think we only inched forward in the larger plotline. There were bits: the investigation of the background incident, the introduction of a few other AI characters, and a few other boxes ticked, but it was more of a sidetrek, so I'm hoping for a little more bone on the meat in this one.


message 9: by Gary (last edited Aug 17, 2018 11:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gary | 1472 comments I just finished the third installment. You can just blast right through these things. Relatively short fiction in nice that way. Lots of "I'm done..." satisfaction for the buck, as it were. It reminds me of reading some of the longer works in copies of Analog or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, upon which I cut my sci-fi teeth as it were, even if these are at $9.99 on Amazon, somewhat pricey....

I not going to put up any spoilers there, but I will note that this is a little spoiler-ish, so if you're planning on reading the next one you might want to leave these comments alone.

It's interesting in that the third version is very much like the second in that it reads as something very episodic. I picked it up because I was interested in seeing the over-arching plot move and it does move on incrementally, but not much. Murderbot continues to search for answers and gets a few little snippets, but not really much. Another AI is introduced and we get a little flavor of how that might work more or less. Our narrator continues to be acerbic and wry, which is the appeal of these books, but by the end of the third one I was starting to feel was getting a little trite. That might be just me, though. Her consistency shouldn't really be a criticism. I just get tired of hearing the same narrative tone after a while, which is why I usually take a break between reading installments of a particular series. YMMV.

As Yoly noted above, apparently she's going to go more into full length novels after this installment, so the episodic nature of these shorter pieces and the open-ended nature of the larger plot probably makes a lot of sense in that context; she's saving the big plot points for them. At least, that's what it reads like to me. So, after #1 when the main story kicks off, #2 and #3 aren't really place holders so much as "filler" episodes in what is still season 1 of the Murderbot TV show.

Regardless, these are definitely fun reads, and my curiosity about that over-arching plot remains, so I'll be checking out later installments.


message 10: by Yoly (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yoly (macaruchi) | 795 comments I also finished the third one and really enjoyed it.

Gary wrote: "I just get tired of hearing the same narrative tone after a while, which is why I usually take a break between reading installments of a particular series. YMMV."
I know what you mean. This is one of the reasons I rarely read another book from the same author one after the other. Seems start feeling repetitive, either the style or the dialog or the plot. Spacing them out even if they turn out to be repetitive I have mostly forgotten about the previous one and rarely notice.

I'm looking forward to the last episode this October.

Should I worry that I really identify with the Murderbot? I keep finding myself saying "of course!" after every piece of inner monologue...


message 11: by Gary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gary | 1472 comments Two months might be a bit soon for me to pick up another one of these... but they're short. Maybe.

One of the charms of this series is really the only relatable character is the murderbot. At least, I don't much relate to anyone else. Even the other AIs are a bit off-putting. I do suspect there's going to be some sort of "normalization" of the murderbot, though—something like the evolution of Dexter in that TV series—from complete misanthrope to something more along the lines of a benevolent curmudgeonly type. At least, as far as certain humans are concerned....


message 12: by Yoly (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yoly (macaruchi) | 795 comments Yeah, I can't wait until the last episode. I would assume she's going to set the story up to continue in the full novel next year?

In related news All Systems Red (Murderbot #1) won the Hugo for Best Novella:
https://www.tor.com/2018/08/20/announ...

Yay!


message 13: by Gary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gary | 1472 comments For some reason, Humans turned into Almost Human in my head, so I've started watching that. I've only watched ep1 so far, but there there are, actually, a lot of parallels with the Murderbot series. AI robots, human enhancements (or replacement parts, at least) and the whole struggle of an early self-aware/conscious model to "fit in" or otherwise "pass" as we might say. It's mostly a cop/buddy/odd couple theme rather than something more along the lines of the lone wolf thing going on in the Murderbot series, but there are a lot of other parallel ideas.

Humans is next, I guess....


message 14: by Gary (last edited Aug 28, 2018 04:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gary | 1472 comments OK, I'm giving up on Almost Human. A smidge too broad for my taste. There are certain parallels with the Murderbot series, but the whole thing plays out like too much of a sitcom. "Please don't scan my testicles ever again" and crap like that, which (aside from being a bizarre AI superpower) just plays like they're pandering to a 13-year-old fart joke level sense of humor. There's a time and a place for that sort of thing, mind you, but not in my exploration on the nature of AI sci-fi, thank you.

So, I guess I'll look around for Humans now....


message 15: by Yoly (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yoly (macaruchi) | 795 comments Gary wrote: "So, I guess I'll look around for Humans now.... "

It's on Amazon Prime Video if you have Prime.
https://www.amazon.com/Episode-1/dp/B...


Re: AI. I came across this over the weekend but haven't had a chance to watch it yet. Apparently Robin Sloan has been writing with the help from AI:

https://arstechnica.com/video/2018/08...

I haven't read Sourdough, but I read Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour book store and really enjoyed it. I've read good things about Sourdough, particularly the audiobook version.


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