The question of robo-sentience becomes pressingly personal in Cooper’s accomplished debut, as Kasih is probed, studied, and exploited by the Front, the Union, and then others. (The geopolitics of Cooper’s revolution are convincingly complex and ever-shifting.) Scenes of interrogation, both harsh and empathetic, are gripping, as Cooper teases out the mysteries of Kasih. Some see her as a person, others as a tool, but all believe they desperately need her … and considering what she might actually want is, of course, a luxury.
Kasih is the novel’s heart, and it’s most compelling point-of-view character, especially in set piece passages where she’s unsure how to respond, suspecting she’s being tested or facing betrayal. Cooper’s emphasis is on what it would feel like to be her, even as his exacting depiction of tech like nanobot-aided brain duplication, and his thrilling command of A.I. science and theory, ground the tale in the realm of hard science fiction. The global political situation is less thoroughly explained or convincing, and even seasoned SF readers may have to work to keep up in the opening chapters. But the story, like Kasih, boasts real, powerful life.
Takeaway: This gripping epic of robot sentience is urgent, emotional, and scientifically exciting.
Great for fans of: Martha Wells’s Murderbot series, Louisa Hall’s Speak.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A