William X. Adams, author
Alien Talk (sci-fi, 80,000 words): Robin Taylor is an android, an artificial human, and a specialist in the origins of language. As millions of people become mute in a spreading pandemic, she discovers that language is an intelligent virus that infected early humans, ultimately enabling modern civilization. But now the virus is enraged by the false language of talking technologies, everything from "smart speakers" to talking remote controls. But Robin is an AI gadget herself. Anyone she communicates with is instantly stricken mute. How can she warn humans and stop the plague? Alien Talk is the second book in the Newcomers series.
Adams’s provocative second Newcomer novel (after Reluctant Android) injects thought-provoking scientific speculation into a prescient tale of a global epidemic. People around the world spontaneously lose their ability to communicate. The mysterious affliction is dubbed output aphasia, and though its victims can still hear and understand others, they lose their command of both spoken and written language. Androids Andy Bolton, a software engineer, and Robin Taylor, a linguistics expert, work together to uncover the cause, discovering that human language is actually the result of an intelligent alien parasite called Ruk-ruk Akoo. The parasite is indignant that humans have created computer-driven language devices such as Siri, Alexa, and even GPS, and is punishing humanity for misusing its gifts. Because Andy and Robin represent the pinnacle of artificial language users, anyone they speak to is instantly afflicted with output aphasia. To protect humanity, they must devise a way to warn people without using language and figure out how to neutralize Ruk-ruk. The too-easy solution they eventually land on is a letdown, but the fascinating scientific debates on linguistics, genetics, the nature of identity, and the distinction between intelligence and consciousness make this worthwhile. Fans of big idea sci-fi should take note. (Self-published)