Books read in November and December

Injection Volume 1 (11/8) – The first trade paperback for Warren Ellis’ new series. It’s grim and weird and I’m excited to see where he takes it. The art is really good for the most part, though there were a couple sections that were hard for me to follow what was happening.

Elektrograd (11/18) – The latest short in Warren Ellis’ Summon Books series is a retro future noir story based in an experimental city inspired by real life experimental architecture. It reads like a graphic novel (and the afterword confirms that it was originally written with that in mind).

@liketocontinue (12/7) – Matt Webb’s robot poem was great fun to read. It comes in 36 Tweets and the only way to get the next one is to hit the like button. It’s got word play, experimentation with form, cleverness. Robots and emotions. Robot mediated poetry at it’s finest.

Speak (12/8) – Absolutely wonderful.  Looping, self referential at multiple levels, poignant and, at times, heartbreaking.  The most human take on advanced AI I’ve come across.

Virtually Human (12/14) – This is a book of philosophy. If you approach it expecting something more technical, as I did, you will be disappointed. It took me a couple of chapters to realign my expectations but once I did I was well rewarded. The main thrust of the book is this: conscious artificial intelligences are coming and with them a host of philosophical, legal and moral quandaries. She focuses primarily on a type of artificial consciousness she thinks will be most prevalent, which she terms “mindclones.” A mindclone is a cyber consciousness made from the digital exhaust of a biological one. Creating a mindclone, in her view, will not create a new person, but merely extend the consciousness of the biological original to a new substrate. She argues that they will be the same person and legally and culturally recognized as such.

Unfortunately she seems to have trouble coming down on what mindclones and other AIs will be able to consent to. While much of the philosophical and moral arguments are inclusive of these new consciousnesses in humanity, the more technical sections seem to waffle between treating them as consenting adults and as efficiency improving tools whose owners can tweak them at will.  Nevertheless I found many of the philosophical arguments intriguing, and it’s a pleasant surprise that someone is thinking these things already.

Suicide by Jaguar (12/17) – David Landsberger‘s first book of poetry is short and sweet. The overwhelming majority of my family’s American contingent is based in Miami, giving me just enough familiarity with the city to recognize it in these poems. Unsurprisingly my favorites were those for and about Chicago including the sweet summer capsule of Chicago Haiku 1 and Chicago Elegy, a bittersweet homage to urban wildlife.  All the poems are translated into Spanish which is appropriate for both Chicago and Miami.  One day I hope to speak Spanish well enough to comment on the quality of the translations, but for now I’ll just say it makes me happy that they’re there.

Submergence (12/26) – The language in this sparse and introspective novel is often lyrical, though the narrative meanders and is ultimately unsatisfying.  I found myself really enjoying certain passages of this book but never really understanding where it was going.  I’m not sure if those are issues with the book or the reader, but I have a hard time recommending it.

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