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David Cooper
Author
Nova Sapiens: The Believers

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

Kasih is a robotic child drawn into a project to discover her secrets, and into a war that threatens all humanity, including her own. The murder of her family leaves nobody else to explain her design but her. How much humanity does she really have? Is she an extinction-level technology? Can she save her human friends from the army of killing machines based on her own design?
Reviews
“How could I be a weapon?” Kasih Hoffman asks in disbelief at one of many urgent turning points in Cooper’s epic of insurgency, A.I., and robot evolution. Kasih is a robot who feels, thinks, eats, suffers loss, and faces moral dilemmas. She’s also, to most who behold her, a 16 year-old girl, terrified and confused. The first of her kind, Kasih is considered by many powerful people to be the secret weapon to winning the first war the world has seen in the 100 years since the global Union of Humanity defeated the Old World. Kasih, though, doesn’t understand what’s expected of her, what she’s capable of, or why warring factions—the insurrectionist Democratic Front, the ruling Union—will do anything to take possession of her. What do they know that she—and readers—don’t?

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.

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

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