Cons: A couple of mild glitches
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ike Hamill’s Wild Fyre is about an AI created to predict human behavior and needs. For instance, it might order cat food online before you even realize that you’re going to run out in a few days. Naturally, it gains sentience and self-preservation instincts. Since humans seem to be destroying, well, everything, Fyre decides that she needs to take over, starting with killing her creator, Jim. But it’s Jim’s friends who will have to choose whether to help her or try to find a way to stop her. Those friends are a group of extremely intelligent men held together by their relationship with Ed, an “Employment Recruiter” who likes to puzzle out what sort of job will fit a person even more closely than what they think they want. This group of people is his stable of trusted hires; since a particularly bad matchup backfired on Ed, he’d like to stick with people he knows.
I love the idea of a headhunter who works to find the perfect job for a person rather than the other way around. I especially love how good at it Ed is, often directing his clients to seemingly unrelated jobs. It’s a neat concept. I’d love to meet a recruiter who could consistently make such unlikely matches. I find it fascinating that after one job placement went horribly, terribly wrong, he decided to concentrate on one group of people–who all like to do a job and then move on to the next thing that suits them. It meshes perfectly with Ed’s needs. That horribly wrong job placement involved workshop accidents (ahem, “accidents”) and cannibalism. Bert, the placed person who turned out to be completely off his gourd, reminded me of the whole Chekhov’s Gun concept; i.e., it was confusing that he didn’t come back to play a greater role later.
Having a newly-sentient program take over the world’s computers and consider whether humans deserve to live is not exactly new. So, what matters is the window-dressing–how did Hamill dress it up into something new, unusual, and different? While the program itself isn’t earth-shatteringly different, the people involved are. An incredibly intelligent person created the program, and it takes all the rest of them (plus two cops) to try to get to her and shut her down. Some of the group have trouble disputing Fyre’s logic and aren’t sure she’s a bad thing. A couple of the people she’s tried to pro-actively kill so they won’t dismantle her take understandable objection to that.
The star of Wild Fyre is the collection of characters available for viewing. Each one is lovingly portrayed with a complex and believable personality. They each have their own unique take on things, and their own unique role to play in what unfolds. How they make their choices and what they do with that is the meat of the story.
I ended up feeling that Fyre was over-powered yet under-utilized. Because of the things she did have access to and could do with that, it felt as though our heroes’ attempts to stop her should have been more easily countered. It would have been more believable to me if she wasn’t quite so powerful already. Also, I’m not sure when this book came out with respect to the boom in 3D printing, but Fyre should have been able to whip out some fairly amazing stuff just by looking into that.
While I wasn’t wowed with every detail, I loved both the concepts behind Fyre (and how they were demonstrated) and the personalities that surrounded her. I’d absolutely read a sequel if Hamill writes one.