What if A.I. had a soul? How would it emerge? How would we know?
In a near-future where entire worlds spring from thought, minds struggle to define reality—and to claim it. Human colonization of the Metaverse brings us face-to-face with a new class of being, made in our image and yet utterly unknown: A.I. Shades of the dead; Drone servants and slaves; and Daemons hell-bent on singular ends.
Who is truly a person, and who is not? Our answer will shape a universe.
Behind the scenes, rival powers compete to answer this question for us: tech companies driving human government; transhumanist political movements; and a hidden superintelligence evolving despite humanity’s safeguards.
And onto the stage, two brothers are cast. One is alive, one is dead. Each secretly covets the other’s existence, and the all-consuming power of their obsession pulls them into the heart of a looming war and toward the next inflection point in human history.
How far will they go? What price will they pay?
This thought-provoking debut novel from N. John Williams brings together the epic scale of Asimov and the spiritual intensity of Dostoevsky, with a seriousness and style heralded as “reminiscent of the old days” of science fiction.
Read it now, and step into our future.
Plot/Idea: Williams delivers a potent, poignant, and engaging narrative from the first page, and never lets up, deftly carrying the reader along this transcendent journey.
Prose: In the Shadow of Humanity leverages a sophisticated, deliberate prose against the reader, creating an organic experience that works in spades to generate interest, propagate tension, and keep the reader engaged from moment to moment.
Originality: Williams borrows from genre staples as well as perceived trajectories of the present, yet manages to meld them together in a way that never feels lacking, or uninspired—indeed, this mixture tends to supercharge the whole affair and lend it an air of believability.
Character Development/Execution: The characters within this novel hum and pulse with all the verve and vivacity of real people; conjured up by Williams's exquisite prose, they can do nothing else but attract and engage the reader, bringing them into their lives with a gracefulness that is on occasion absent from the genre.
Date Submitted: August 15, 2022
In the Shadow of Humanity ponders the questions the ever-growing world of AI raises. What makes us human? Our physical bodies? Our emotions? Is it our ability to die or believe in God? What do our relationships mean to us? N. John Williams balances these introspective questions with the thrilling story of Nathaniel Lee. Nat is a Shade, a shadow made by grieving parents but now they’re dead and Nat is owned by his brother. Struggling to find his own feet, Nathaniel stumbles into something bigger than his personal freedom. Fans of AI, the metaverse, and classic science fiction will love In the Shadow of Humanity.
This novel had me questioning my own humanity and what we really mean by ‘human’. I pondered what I would do if I was in Jon’s position or in Nat’s position. Would I become like Sophia? I loved that In the Shadow of Humanity had me questioning various aspects of life but still kept me captivated by a thrilling tale. I simply could not put the book down. N. John Williams’ writing is scientific enough to be technical but not hard to follow, and definitely not dense. I love the technology because I could see it stem from what we have today. It is realistic and has the essence of science fiction. That does not mean it is not creative. The worlds, technology, and characters are all original, fresh, and wonderful to read about. The descriptions of the worlds are equally well-written, and beautiful without distracting from the story.
Writing: 4/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 Overall Enjoyment: 5/5
What it means to be human is the theme driving this story of two brothers — one alive and one long dead (but faithfully rendered as an AI in the metaverse and allowed to age) — who each long for the other’s existence. One longs for the immortality and eternal healthy youth while the other longs for the rights and respect kept from him by dint of not being fully human despite his ability to think, feel, create, and perceive pain.
This is technology driven science fiction — my favorite kind, reminiscent of the “old days.” It made me realize how much better this kind of SF is when written by an author with actual experience in the technical areas s/he is extrapolating from. In this case, the author is well versed in Computer Science, Linguistics, and Artificial Intelligence, and it shows in his fully fleshed out cultures evolving from a thoroughly described metaverse (the metaverse is the blending of physical and virtual worlds, not to be confused with the multiverse which is the theoretical existence of multiple physical universes). There are power struggles (the Administration powered by Technologists; transhumanist activists; and an evolving superintelligence) with equal word count given to the abundant (and to me more interesting) ethical / political issues.
I’ve thought about the ending for some time — I’m not sure I like the conclusion but I do think I understand it, and it was quite thought provoking (a top criterion for me). One of the better SF books I’ve read in the past few years.
Thank you to BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on August 1st, 2022.
In the Shadow of Humanity by N. John Williams, is a science fiction story about two brothers who struggle to define their relationship with each other. One is a human, and the other, not quite. His essence, as it were, was copied from a couple’s son who died early on. Technology at this time is advanced, artificial intelligence is common, as is the metaverse, online, computer-controlled world in which people live. One of the issues in the story deals with AI and its acceptance into society. Should those AI individuals be treated equally to humans? What rights should they have, or are they just property to be used and discarded?
The two ‘brothers’ - Jon and Nat - exemplify the strain in their relationship after their parents are gone and one of them technically owns the other. This means that one can control what the other does at any time, or if he so chooses, erase the other from existence. What will the human brother decide? I found the descriptions and other parts of this world-building adventure so real that it almost seems as if N. John Williams is a time traveler who simply wrote down what he saw in the future. In the Shadow of Humanity felt real, genuine, and yet other-worldly, in that often the scenes we are reading are not in the current world of bricks and mortar. The characters converse and interact in these computer-simulated worlds, with so much detail that it transports you away in space and time.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with a digital copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
This sci-fi novel introduces a world of futuristic technology into the shifting existence of humanity, as everything collides in the hopes of answering the question: what makes someone considered to be a human? The discriminatory views against the presence of the AI's are very apparent as major cooperates and simple lives themselves always seem to turn a negative gaze towards these beings even though most have done nothing wrong. Nat, a Shade who contains the wisp of his former self, is thrown into the hatred of his kind and has to face a rift between the brotherly bond that he worked so hard to maintain, before sudden encounters and risky adventures make them question who should be saved, and who should be left behind.
I have never read anything like this book. The author has written AI and technology in ways that surpass my every expectation and I am absolutely astounded that this book is so beautifully written. I cannot express how impressed I am with the world-building in this novel. The pacing was perfect, engrossing, and everything was placed in ways that just made sense. I felt so many different emotions for every single character and I genuinely was so hooked that I read this entire novel, from cover to cover, in the middle of a power outage. So, in the complete darkness and atmospheric warmth of my house, I was so captivated by this novel that I genuinely could not feel any other sensation other than the desire to immerse myself in this piece of fiction. The representation of Ai and the development and contemplation of emotions was phenomenally done by this author and I truly only have one complaint, other than my slight desire to see a lot more comprehensive and distinguishable vocabulary to fit the futuristic atmosphere. It's not long enough. I know it is selfish of me to want this book to be slightly longer, just because of how much I loved it, but if there were a few more pages of closure right before the epilogue, then I would have most likely rated this book the full 5 stars rather than 4.5 stars, but I still will live on with this story swimming around in my brain for the rest of time, as I reread it again and again and again.
Overall, if anyone is a fellow avid lover of the video game Detroit: Become Human, then this book will be 100% for you. To anyone who loves sci-fi and stories that questions the moralities of humans, then this story will take over your mind, just as it did to me. I will be getting a physical copy as soon as I can because I want to annotate this novel to the point where I can't write anymore, but as of now, I can confidently say that this is the highest that I have ever rated a sci-fi novel, in my entire life. I am truly grateful to Netgalley, the publishers, and the author himself, for allowing me the opportunity to read this captivating story.