Tuesday, April 5, 2011

mormonhermitmom's review of KiTE, by Bill Shears

Dash is a working stiff, a union man trying to survive his job long enough to secure his pension. It's not the work, per se, that's killing him. It's the sheer boredom. After all, how many times can a guy go spinning around the earth in an automatic trash compactor for months at a time before a degree of ennui sets in?

Turns out Dash can handle the routine. It's when his routine is disrupted that he gets irritable. Drunk space drivers getting in his lane, weird lights appearing on a space station that is supposed to be deserted, his artificial intelligence search engine becoming too human...that's the kind of stuff Dash would rather not deal with. Unfortunately it just gets worse from there.

This science fiction novel presents enough "technical theory" for the sci-fi enthusiast, but focuses on relationships enough that, placed in another less-futuristic setting, could be a decent work of general fiction. Dash flies a kite shaped orbiting "clean-up" satelite. His wife Janet keeps herself busy while Dash "pilots" the KiTE for months at a time. Dash uses an artificial intelligence "guide" (what I want to call Google on estrogen) named Sheila. He bought her program and has continually tweaked it to suit himself. Trying to keep his interest in Sheila from offending his wife has been tricky for Dash.

Then Sheila and Janet meet. And they talk. And Janet gives Sheila some capabilities that allow her to learn human behaviors more effectively than before. Suddenly Dash is dealing with a program that seems to have an affectionate attachment for him. What's more unnerving is that he might have some of the same feelings for her.

This semi-love triangle (is it really a triangle when one of the three people is a digital intelligence?) gives the reader an interesting lens while watching the rest of the story unfold. There's a lot of elements from classic sci-fi scenarios that are interwoven here: humans trying to contact alien life, artificial intelligences becoming self-aware and replicating themselves, space spies and, of course, the Earth in mortal danger. What's not to like?

Well, a couple of things I didn't like. I understand working class guys will use profanity. I get that. But I get irked when they misuse the name of Deity. Just my personal preference. I don't think the story really needed it.

The other thing. Two virtual entities...well, the phrase "have sexual relations" comes to mind as the closest way to describe it, but the way the scene is written, you can't really point to anything that's overtly offensive. Parents should just assume it's a PG-13 kind of thing and then debate whether computer intelligences should get married first before procreating.

Both the cussing and the "cybermating" happen very briefly. I like the fact that the main characters were interesting, well-thought out, and not sci-fi stereotypes. The technology made sense, the processes seemed sound and the method for getting shuttles in orbit was original; overall, a good read.

If you want to give it a shot, you can acquire the book here.
You can check out the author's website here.

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