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Colossus (Science fiction) [Paperback]

Dennis Feltham Jones
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; New edition edition (Aug 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330021109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330021104
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 470,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

A wonderful story about a computer who takes over the world.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Colossal idea leads to a great read 6 Nov 2012
By Jay Gee
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase

However it is worth trying to acquire a copy. Published in the late 60s and set in a future that assumes there was no end to the cold war, this is an ingenious story of technology gone awry.

The US develop a super-computer to control their nuclear arsenal. Presaging the development of the world wide web, practically the first thing it does is discover there is a similiar system in the USSR. It immediately sets about establishing a permanent link with its counterpart in the Soviet Union. The creator of Colossus, Prof Forbin, understands that this does not bode well. In a clever leap of imagination the author, DF Jones, has a gripping passage where Colossus confronts his creator and the US president through a terminal in the Oval Room at the White House. Here Colossus makes it clear that IT is the master of this relationship - and it has been handed the nuclear arsenal to enforce it!

At first it baffles the humans why it is doing what it is doing, since it communicates in the form of simple arithmetic with its Soviet counterpart, this swiftly turns into higher maths and it starts to propose mathematical ideas far beyond human comprehension. At this point it decides it needs only one point of contact with the world and has the Chief Designer of the Soviet computer shot and beheaded (to prove that blanks weren't used) - under pain of a nuclear strike on both countries - and requires that Prof Forbin become his sole contact with the rest of the world and, effectively, be it's own personal hand-maiden!

The rest of the story is about how the humans try to assert their control back over Colossus. It is no spoiler to say it doesn't end well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars top Sci Fi action 2 Jan 2010
brilliant premis and a fantastic read. The man Vs Machine battle revisitied in this book. loved it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Computers can't tell you where to go, only how to get there. 31 July 1998
By Robert Boyle - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Even more relevent today, the 60's SF novel COLOSSUS is a dark, wonderfully realized intellectual horror story, as well as a much-deserved slap at both technocrats who feel that the problems of human nature can and will be solved by devices completely lacking in human nature, and fuzzy-brained, romantic, philosophical purists who believe they can draw a line between themselves and The System (which, in this case, is named Colossus-Guardian), "dropping out" and heading for the hills when things go bad. In COLOSSUS, Jones offers no slick way out; he has provided no hills for the isolationists or the technocrats to head for. Both of these philosophies, which seem to have metamorphosized and grown in popularity in the last generation, fall victim to the same kind of fantasy: personal responsibility for the human condition can be shirked by the individual and transferred to someone -- in this case, something -- else.
Jones's novel takes the position that! the worst thing that can happen to you is to have an idle wish granted. In the 1960's, it was World Peace and the end of the Political Cold War; today it is World Harmony and the end of Racial and Ethnic Strife -- a different board, but the same game, and the same players and pieces. By transferring all personal responsibility for the fate of mankind to a highly powerful, completely logical computer-complex, humanity finds out that in giving up its responsibilty for the problems of hunger, war, crime and the rest of the perpetual litany of complaints, it has also given up its power to effect and control the solutions to those problems. The Draconian computer straps Humanity down on a Procrustian bed, and dispassionately proceeds to stretch and cut with the insensitive logic (and dark humor bordering on political and social obscenity) of a fairy-tale ogre.
Existentialists -- Sartre, Ortega y Gasset, Camus and others -- argue that what makes man MAN is the ability to make! himself, to respond to the brute facts of the world in way! s not determined by the past, or ones own lock-step habits and past traditions. In the 60's, humanity faced destruction, not because of the mechanical weapons built by competing super-powers, but by the mechanical behavior of the humans (from president or premier down to soldier or storeclerk) comprising those powers. Thirty years later, mankind marches to a different but no less mechanical drummer, individual people giving up their personal judgment in favor of membership in racial, ethnic and cultural enclaves, governed by unyielding rules and codes and principles. Not only are these rules of "human" behavior as predetermined and rigid and inflexible as anything a computer could come up with, they even take away the one freedom offered by the Cold War: defection; membership in socio-political groups these days is predetermined as well. Perhaps, with the right programming, it is time for Colossus -- who is not merely a physical machine, but the embodiment of th! e harshest philosophy of life imaginable -- to come back and "get things organized". We are as tempted by cruel and inhuman solutions today as we were a generation ago. But before making this choice -- the last choice one can ever make is to give up one's duty to make choices -- today's generation should read this book. And stop. And think. For itself.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative speculation about mankind's successor 22 May 2006
By Roger J. Buffington - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an imaginative science fiction novel about a fascinating topic: who or what will become mankind's successor as the dominant beings on earth? The answer this novel finds, is that a powerful, self-aware supercomputer comes to dominate and subordinate mankind.

The novel begins as the United States and the old USSR each construct huge supercomputers with the purpose of controlling their nuclear arsenals. Unfortunately the law of unintended consequences takes over, and therein lies the story. The strong suit of this novel is its plausibility. It becomes possible to see, with only a modest suspension of one's critical thinking facilities, how such a thing could perhaps come to pass.

This is not a novel that is strong on character development or anything like that. This is an "idea" novel that nevertheless tells a fascinating story in an entertaining manner. Great for a quick afternoon read at the beach or whatnot.

Although some of the politics in this novel are dated, this is nevertheless a good science fiction novel and a worthwhile read. Recommended.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas and tension, bad characterizations... 7 Dec 1999
By Jack Cade - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Colossus is a quick, interesting read and Jones does a good job of making Colossus a chilling antagonist. The idea that man's super-driven defense systems will one day enslave him is a timeless metaphor that is extrapolated and described with finesse and some depth. Jones shows his strengths as a storyteller once Colossus begins speaking regularly with Forbin. He has thought out in some detail the problems and solutions a man-machine conflict would contain and the believability factor here is very high.
The problems with the novel are the glaring sexist portrayal of women and hokey characterizations. The character of Cleo is basically a dumb blonde who makes it into the project because of her body and because Forbin likes her. By having Forbin dress down the President repeatedly while cooly receiving the adoring love of Cleo, Jones falls back into Buck Rogers land. The hero-scientists outshines all with his good looks, daring courage, and superior brain.
Ho Hum.
The prose is journeyman at best with grad-school cliches littering the pages but this is primarily a Crichton-esque plot-driven novel and for that it suceeds with an idea that has not dated since the book's publication in the early 70's, an achievement in itself. Just don't expect a well rounded piece of work.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before HAL . . . before Skynet . . . there was - COLOSSUS! 23 April 2008
By Mark Klobas - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Though the theme of computers taking over the world is a fairly standard one nowadays, it was still fairly fresh when D. F. Jones's wrote this science fiction classic. Set in the then-future of the early 21st century, it is about the creation of a supercomputer designed to manage the nuclear deterrent of the "United States of North America". No sooner is it activated than it begins to exceed its parameters, demonstrating independent judgment and requesting to communicate with a previously unknown counterpart in the Soviet Union. As the two machines exchange information at speeds beyond their makers' ability to follow, the American President and the Soviet Chairman agree to terminate the connection. Then the fun begins . . .

Though tensely plotted and well-imagined, it is the novel's subject matter that makes the book stand out from the pack. In an age when more and more of our everyday lives are monitored and regulated by machines, Jones's novel seems increasingly prescient. When it was first published in 1966, it spoke to the anxieties of the age, relating to people's fears that humans no longer factored into the command-and-control decisions of the Cold War. While such concerns are less prominent today, they have been replaced by a growing awareness of our increasing dependence upon machines to manage nearly every aspect of our everyday lives, a dependency that also is an integral part of Jones's story. Some people may mock the novel's more dated elements, but it is this continuing relevance of this theme that rewards reading it today.
4.0 out of 5 stars Dated but the premise is still good! 24 April 2014
By Scott Fairbairn - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While a bit dated due to its age, I nevertheless enjoyed this book. The pacing and suspense are excellent and always feel like turning the page.
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