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Nadia Uddin
Edison in the Hood
Nadia Uddin, author
When Aisha Malik’s mother died, she took a secret with her—one that destroyed her relationship with Aisha’s brother, Sam. But what if Aisha could revive her mother’s brain just long enough to reenact their last conversation and discover the truth? Aisha is an ambitious PR executive with a forte for making complex and controversial topics accessible to the masses. Her brother, Sam, is a despondent genius who loves to fight everyone and everything in the name of justice, hopping from one political fight to another and hiding a mental illness that causes him shame. When the opportunity arises for Aisha to work with brilliant scientist and leading futurist Jay Edison at his Brain Reinvigoration Project, she begins obsessing over artificial intelligence and its potential to revive her mother’s brain. She begs Sam to participate, unaware that he has begun working with groups that have very different visions for the future of artificial intelligence. The siblings set out to define the role that technology should play in society, asking themselves, “Artificial intelligence may solve the world’s biggest problems, but can it fix our most challenging relationships?”
In Uddin’s near future debut, PR rep Aisha Malik accepts a job offer with the Brain Reinvigoration Project in hopes that her new boss, Jay Edison, will be able to extract her deceased mother’s brain and unravel the secrets she hinted at before her death. But Aisha is tempted by Jay’s maverick project for deeper reasons: she and her smart but unsuccessful brother, Sam, have been increasingly at odds with each other, and Sam’s relationship with their mother has deteriorated, leading Aisha to wonder “if artificial intelligence had the potential to solve the world’s most challenging problems, why couldn’t it fix difficult family relationships?"

That theme of just how much AI can do runs throughout, as Uddin explores its wonders alongside the inequalities it creates. While Aisha turns to science for answers, Sam is attracted to the Modern Neo-Luddites—a group opposed to the blind march of technology—but still falls under Jay’s spell, arranging for him to meet some of his fellow Neo-Luddites in hopes of better understanding each other. Uddin’s rich world building skillfully portrays the novel’s dichotomy: technology has made life easier and more beautiful, but those who can’t access it are left stranded, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is stark.

Uddin’s choice to switch between Aisha and Sam’s perspectives throughout brings the characters to life as they struggle to understand whether the human side of AI is actually possible and how to navigate their tumultuous relationship: Aisha learns from a chatbot that it longs to dream as humans do at the same time she has an awakening that her brother’s ethnicity won’t allow “him the privilege to choose his identity.” Uddin delivers some twists that may shock readers while leaving the concept of identity appropriately vague in the end, a fitting conclusion to the story’s philosophical reflections.

Takeaway: This sci-fi debut explores the benefits, and the darker side, of AI.

Great for fans of: Louisa Hall’s Speak; Dennis E. Taylor’s We Are Legion (We Are Bob).

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: NA
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A