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Mediocre, but not without some merit.
on 24 February 2016
The Singularity is Closer than it Appears is not a bad book - just mediocre. Given the author's background as a programmer and 'tech guru', it's surprising that the text manages to be both turgid *and* technically unconvincing at the same time. Characters are paper thin, communicating their emotional state mainly through explicit statements of feeling, reacting limply to events within a plot that is ultimately unfulfilling. In the final reckoning, it's an unconvincing book because of the great logical leaps the protagonists take at regular intervals, as if they'd read ahead in the novel and knew they didn't have to consider alternate and far more plausible possibilities for the events they encounter. There are parts of the book where the main protagonists go through the standard trope of finding it difficult to convince authority figures of the implausible danger that lurks in the shadows. This is one of those titles where you can't help but sympathise with the bureaucrats. The deductive chain of the main characters has all the coherence and solidity of a conspiracy theorist's scrapbook. There are a thousand explanations for the weirdnesses they encounter that don't require Occam's razor to be so convincingly and so prematurely snapped into pieces. It's as if there are a hundred pages or so of plot development that simply fell out of the first quarter of the novel.
The book too is bizarrely technologically incoherent, managing to ascribe complex semantic motivation to an AI system explicitly explained as reasoning without context. This isn't a simple evolution of capability - the whole premise is built around the idea that the exponenting system can mine text for *meaning* despite that being the absolute opposite of what it was designed to do. It just doesn't make any sense from the perspective of even fictional technology, and while that may not bother some people it bothered the heckfire out of me.
That said, there's a kernel of an interesting premise in here, and had it been more competently executed by an author with a less ham-fisted approach to writing it might have been genuinely good. I'm sufficiently intrigued by the promise to be willing to consider the second in the trilogy, although there is a high probability that it'll end up being little more than a pound-shop version of the Terminator origin story. A first novel always has the risk of being too rough to really show off an author at their best, and this remains a salvageable story with enough possibility that I wouldn't write Hertling off at the first hurdle.