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Capacity Paperback – Unabridged, 17 Nov 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor; 1 edition (17 Nov. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330427008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330427005
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 2.8 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 148,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Engaging and a bit creepy."--"Booklist"
"Ballantyne writes with engaging authority about high-concept technological novelties."--"Publishers Weekly"

Book Description

Society in the twenty-third century runs smoothly and peacefully with the aid of Social Care operatives such as Judy 3. Meanwhile benevolent AIs, under the control of the near mythical Watcher, seem to have solved all mankind’s problems, and with their aid humans have begun to explore the surrounding universe. But why does every AI that visits the planet Gateway commit suicide within just hours of arriving there? Justinian Sibelius has now himself arrived on the planet to try and find a reason. Yet how can someone with merely human intelligence solve a puzzle that has defeated minds far greater than his own – even that of the Watcher itself? And what if it should turn out that the Watcher is not so benevolent as people once believed? 'An exceptional first novel. A new British star has arrived to join the likes of Hamilton, Reynolds and Banks' Vector

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Christopher O. Beckett on 17 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fine book about a future world in which multiple virtual realities exist alongside 'atomic' reality and a human being may choose to have multiple versions of themselves made (and where illegal copies of human beings may be made for the purpose of abuse and exploitation). The world is ruled by AIs who seem benign but may not be. Hyper-intelligent robots co-exist alongside human beings: strange subtle, devious, passionate robots, very much against the grain of what we expect robots to be like. Human and artificial intelligence alike face a strange new existential threat from beyond the galaxy.
Like its predecessor Recursion, this is a subtle, ambiguous book which really is about life, the universe and everything. It's full of thought-provoking ideas and not only ideas about only about robots and artificial intelligence (though Ballantyne clearly knows what he is talking about here) but about belief and certainty, good and evil, free will and determinism, childishness and maturity...

There are some great set pieces: the scene in the cave on Gateway, the showdown between Judy, Frances and Chris... At times it is nightmarish, at times absurd, at times touching and hopeful. Like all the best imagined worlds - and like the real world - there isn't a tidy edge to this fictional universe. It extends beyond the horizon. You could reread the book and find new things in it, or change your mind about what is really going on.
Highly recommended. I look forward to the third novel.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By dc_x on 24 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book a few months ago and I generally enjoyed it. There were quite a few interesting ideas, it was well written, and it kept my interest going most of the time. The big disappointment for me was that it didn't have a proper ending, instead you have to wait for the next in the series. I wasn't aware of this when I bought the book, and I found it infuriating that I didn't get a complete book for my money. It seems a lot of sci-fi books are part of a series these days, so perhaps it's not a problem for other people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Royle on 21 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good book with excellent ideas, some quite original. The book isn't difficult to read, but you do need to concentrate in order to follow what is often parallel events with multiple copies of the same characters.

The book handles the necessary visualisation of the worlds well. Some nice twists in the plot too.

Sadly, this book appears to be the middle one of three, something that I didn't detect originally. That said, it stands on it's own quite acceptably. I will probably buy the others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Austin on 23 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A sci-fi genre, well written but I doubt I would choose to buy the sequel. I wasn't that keen because the subject matter dwelt a lot on S&M, although it stayed clear of being pervy it's not a subject I enjoyed reading about.
The literary structure is fascinating, with a number of different strands I nearly gave up reading it as it was confusing to start off, but it actually became clear quite quickly and was worth the effort.
I think I couldn't be bothered to read the sequel as I didn't engage with the characters, I would try another book by the author if he can marry the interesting structure and more engagement with the characters.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 14 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, Often Entertaining, But not Gripping 25 Feb. 2007
By Russell Clothier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was excited as I read the first half of Capacity. Ballantyne sets up an interesting, if not entirely original, future world. Seemingly benevolent AI's watch over mankind, guided by a semi-mythical chief AI, "the Watcher," which may be extraterrestrial in origin. Copies of human personalities live in processing spaces that mimic the real "atomic" world. Harmony and peace are ensured by "Social Care," who tend to every need both physical and psychological. If problems arise, they are dealt with by agents such as Judy, the main character - or characters, since the "atomic" Judy has 12 copies that patrol the virtual world. The Judies are hunting a virtual predator, Kevin, who has been torturing multiple copies of a woman named Helen. Meanwhile, halfway to the Andromeda galaxy, the AI's have encountered an alien threat that seems to feed off intelligence in any form. And it is heading our way. A promising set up. . .

By the end of the book, I was less satisfied. I understood the world as the backstory filled in, but the storyline remained enigmatic. Worse, the motives of the characters are too obscure for their actions to fully make sense. After spending 300 pages with Judy, I still don't get her. By the end of the book, I'm not sure who is on whose side, what they are trying to accomplish, and why. I don't need protagonists in white hats and villains in black, but if I'm to care, things need to be better defined than this.

Also, though the world is fairly well explained, it is not fleshed out. Ballantyne has about 10 characters in the book, which is enough, but they almost never interact with anyone else. We never see another agent, or Judy's boss, or neighbors, or passersby. There is not enough detail to bring the everyday world to life.

All in all, Capacity was worth reading. I imagine much will be cleared up in the sequel, so that it all makes sense. But I'm not sure I care enough to find out.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant 17 Jun. 2007
By Avid Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I sometimes wonder what readers could possibly want. Here one is given a snapping literary style (is writing even an important element to folks anymore?), unforgettable characters, originality, a bold plot and lots of action. The book's real concern is the whole notion of freedom, choice, purpose and what it means to be human. Is a replicated pattern of electronic waves a "human being" like our carbone selves? If a machine can predict our actions does that mean we have no free will? Calvin must be jumping for joy.

I approach a novel, particularly science fiction, from the viewpoint of the entire package. Particularly I look for characterization and human relations - two areas that many sci-fi writers tend to overlook. In tales of the future most authors resort to having our descendents talk familiarly about our time (as if we sat around discussing the culture and society of the Aztecs, Ming Dynasty or Ghanian Empire). These authors can't seem to escape their boundaries - terrestrial and literary. One gets the idea that Ballantyne is having a little fun with his variations, alternate endings, simulataneous realities and interplay between the atomic and virtual worlds. This is NOT the usual "We are the Zeeboos from Planet X here to demand you stop your atomic testing" LOL

Yet, as complex and far-astride as the story reads, it was a blast. Only afterwards did I discover it was the sequeal to Divergence (that I am now reading). Even not knowing beforehand the X-file like mythology - Watcher, Eva, Mary, Social Care, DIANA - I found it a great read. Judy (in all here vairations) is a heroine for the new age. Helen disappoints in the end but Frances, the robot, almost steals the show with her achingly human tenderness and brilliant insights.

I didn't understand the swipe against business - as if living under the "corporate yoke" was worse than the Big Brother Nightmare of the future. This authoritarian structure combined the worst from all political areas - the Right's moral purity crusade, the Left's devotion to collectivism over individuals and the middles complacency with increasing encroachment on the power of the State. Social Care controlled people "for their own good" - how many times have we heard this in history? What did not make sense was the unevenness - people lived no longer than today - they got arthritis for Pete's sake! Yetthere is FTL travel, nanotech, and the lives seemed magical from our point of view. Then one recalls the small conversation from the man who opined there was only so much "capacity" in the universe. In fact, the word "capacity" was used skillfully in several contexts throughout the story - another great literary ploy. My grade: A
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Somewhat interesting ideas, fractured and irritating execution 8 April 2007
By WiltDurkey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The core ideas are interesting, but are not clearly defined. Reading the back cover, you think that the plot is supposed to be about real life vs. digital life. But in fact, it seems to be more about the balance between the good for all vs. the good for individuals - is societal control, for the good of all you understand, incompatible with freewill and individual well-being?

In Capacity, AIs have evolved to the point where they entirely control humans and have arguably neutered humanity, supposedly in order to keep it from its excesses. This is in contrast with Banks' Culture, where AI and humans live in a much more permissive, benign symbiosis. Perhaps Banks never did ask the right questions about AI motivations, and Ballantyne does? The difference is that Banks is an entertaining author.

Whatever the questions raised by Capacity, they are developed within a generally fractured and annoying storyline. A more experienced writer would have conveyed the same concepts with a more natural flow and enjoyable plot. I didn't empathize with any of the characters and found them all very hard to like. Justinian and his baby are perhaps the saddest and most poignant of the bunch, but I was irritated by Justinian's whining persona all the way to the end.

The author, while asking these questions, never does seem to take a position himself. And since Capacity ends with an unsatisfying partial conclusion, you are left with a number of unresolved threads, to be picked up in the sequel.

Last, and least: while novel, the whole Schrodinger box idea is unrealistic since quantum uncertainty collapses with larger scale objects, as I am sure the author is well aware of. Quoting Einstein: "Nobody really doubts that the presence or absence of the cat is something independent of the act of observation".
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Exciting . . . and thoughtful 25 Sept. 2008
By lb136 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"Capacity," Tony Ballantyne's challenging sequel to "Recursion," brings in a new cast of characters, more and different challenges (and challenging ideas), but the same tripartite arrangement.

This time the stories involve Justinian Sibelius (heir to one of the dueling corporations in "Recursion,") who in 2223 is sent on a mission to a planet revolving around an isolated star near the M32 galaxy. He and his infant son have been manipulated there by AIs (he's accompanied by an officious robot named Leslie) to find out why AI's there have shut down their higher functions--AI suicide. This thread's a variation on the old SF "problem to be solved tale."

The other two threads, which take place 17 years after Justinian's expedition, both involve one of the prevailing nannystate councilors, Judy, who appears physically as the "atomic Judy," in one thread, while her virtual selves (they're called Processing Constructs") appear in what is called processing space. In the "atomic Judy" thread, Judy and her robot Frances are trying to track down a sociopathic construct in the virtual world named Kevin, and in the "Helen" thread the virtual Judys and the virtual Helen--a victim of Kevin's--do the same thing.

Lurking over all is the mysterious "Watcher" of "Recursion." Is it real (readers of that novel know, or maybe think they know, the answer), and what are its motives?

This tale is darker than its predecessor, lacking the bantering sense of humor and its references to genre fiction; but its ideas are if anything more challenging. And it's complete in itself. It doesn't leave you hanging, although surely you will want to proceed to "Divergence," the last of the trilogy. It's already published.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Worth the once over 16 Mar. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have the be honest, I picked up this book for all the wrong reasons. That being the cover art. That being said, here are my thoughts!

The book is a little confusing at first, as we are introduced to different scenario's played throughout the private network. Humans are able to have personality constructs of themselves created in the virtual world, even if they are still alive in the 'atomic' world.

As it sets up, the story steadily progresses to the climax, and the ultimate question 'Does the Watcher truly exist?' however, the ending seems to be a bit rushed, leaving off at what could have been a well written battle between opposing sides only to drop off to a more calming ending.

In the end, even with that being said it was a good read and I recommend you either check it out at the local library or pick up a copy to read without the worries of a return date.
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