Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Empty, by Robert Reed

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Lerner Pong is an AI on a mission to the outer solar system following a huge war between machines that has left the inner solar system in ruins. (8,229 words; Time: 27m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average
Recommended By: NClarke LTilton

"Empty," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 12|15, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The story begins as Lerner Pong's "confession," but it's quite a while before we figure out what he's confessing to.  He's not just confessing to his own crimes; he's confessing to the crimes of all intelligent life in the solar system. The humans who started the war. The machines that killed all the humans and destroyed every trace of life. The commander who killed Empty and blamed it on Lerner Pong. And Pong's own acts, of course.

But what Pong really seems to be seeking is purpose. Having learned that the universe (or at least the Milky way) appears to contain no other intelligence, and having also concluded that intelligence destroys itself given enough resources, he has trouble finding one that satisfies. In the end, he chooses to fulfill Empty's vision that Data-type AIs could live in harmony on a comet-sized world.

And he adopts her name to signify this.

Con: Well, maybe that's what it means. We really have no idea what the AIs fought with each other over, but it would seem that having more resources would lead to less conflict, not more. And it's rather odd that the AIs all have the same sort of emotions that human beings do. You'd think that at least some of them would have tried doing without. Finally, if the spaceship uses its engines at all, the AIs in the inner system should be able to track it easily.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 12|15)
Robert Reed Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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