Review: Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

36510759When you were a child perhaps you went to the lake or a pond and skipped rocks across the water. If so, then you understand the rock would soar through the air, hit the surface of the water and then fly back into the air before hitting the water again, usually a few feet away from where it first struck the surface. A good skipping rock could get 4 or 5 skips before it sank beneath the water.

Welcome to Sunday Ahzmundin’s life. This genetically engineered “‘Spore” is one of 30,000 or so remnants of the human race, flying through the galaxy, living life in short bursts of days or weeks out of centuries. Between shifts they’re kept in stasis. Only a handful of people are ever awake at a time.

That might be the first clue that there’s something sinister in the design of their mission. They wake up to help build gates and then sent back to their non-existence for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.

When one of Sunday’s friends, Lian, “malfunctions” Sunday is called upon to clear up the problem. She does… and when she finds out some time later that her friend died she is stunned. She’s stunned that the ship’s AI, the Chimp, didn’t tell her.

Somewhere along the way, Sunday starts to realize that the lives of the people aboard her ship don’t matter much to the Chimp. While she had once marveled at the Chimp and his abilities and had a friendship with him, others saw the Chimp as a controlling force that needed to be removed.

There’s just enough technical stuff in this novel to keep those who love science and space travel theories and such happy. It also doesn’t overwhelm and isn’t pertinent to the enjoyment of the story. However the black holes propelled the ship – the Eriophora – through space and time didn’t matter as much as the fact that Earth had been left long ago, tens of thousands of years of flying through space had passed while the crew built gates and Earth remained silent.

Eventually, when Sunday learns of thousands of crew members who were terminated for population control, she starts to see the Chimp and the mission differently. A group of her friends are determined to take control of the ship and their own destiny, leaving Sunday as a go-between to help them stage a mutiny a few days at a time over a span of thousands of years.

This is the kind of story that just grabs you from the start and – even if you aren’t particularly interested in black holes or the mechanics of space travel – the story hurtles at a breakneck speed. It flies. It’s wild and crazy and fun and I was irritable with anything that interfered with reading this book.

And it’s also the most compelling reason I know of to never buy an Alexa or any other kind of AI device. Beware the future; what man makes may be his undoing. The crew of the Eriophora is about to find out if they can outsmart the Chimp, but to do so they’ll have to outsmart the humans who created the Chimp in the first place.

Highly recommended.

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