|cover art and cover blurb|
I follow Sicoe on Twitter and I've had occasion to visit her blog. Recently I followed one of her tweets to a book promotion webpage where I performed an experiment, testing my skill at judging 54 fantasy and science fiction books by their covers.
When I was done playing that game, I had to admit that it was Sicoe's novel that most intrigued me... first contact, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, merging minds... all science fiction themes that I enjoy.
Interview of Sicoe
I'm a science nerd and I'm much more likely to appreciate someone's science fiction story if they have an understanding of science. Apparently Sicoe works in IT ("software quality consultant"), but I started reading her novel wondering if she qualifies as a science nerd.
Deep Science Fiction
The science fiction genre began with authors such as Smith and Asimov imagining how people would use computers to help us explore the universe. Later, "cyberpunk" arrived and we've been subjected to endless horror-laden dystopian stories about how computers and robots will turn
|Don't hack me, Dave!|
Then the ship's "emergency computer" pulls its trump card and takes back control of the spaceship. Later we meet C.R.I.S., some sort of super-AI.
If you read The Deep Link brace yourself for layers of artificial intelligences, ubiquitous bionics and be ready to plug-in for yet another cyberpunkian treatment of human brain neural networks as if they were computer circuits.
|Original Amazing Stories cover art|
by L. Raymond Jones (1942)
"AI" is just one of the abbreviations that grace the pages of The Deep Link. I suppose in the future many words will transform in sets of initials. So we get FTL, R&D, TMC. MDs, VR, DNA, RNA, HEM and CIS not to mention assorted nacoms, com lines, oxys, synets, jumps and Ticks along with various alien terms like Phylra, samyth, klaar and, of course, deeplinked. I couldn't help thinking: this reads a bit like a computing manual. As they say: write what you know. The slang term "Tick" gets used 77 times in the story, which is not bad, but distant second to the 104 fucks in the story. I guess it is a space opera truism that "talk like a sailor" will apply to spaceship crews in the future.
So, brace for hundreds of pages of fucking cyberpunkish xeno-military-political ... example:
Apparently Sicoe enjoys horror movies and psychological thrillers, so in The Deep Link we get:
|must ... kill ... humans...|
Sicoe on Humanoid Aliens
Many plot elements of Star Gate revolve around familiar features of life on Earth such as plagues and war. The whole franchise strikes me as typical Hollywood sausage meat and I've never been able to watch more than about 5 minutes of it.
I just can't accept the idea that a species advanced enough to be able to travel between the stars is going to use their fantastic technological power to act out all of the stupidity of human history across vast intergalactic distances. Star Gate always struck me as an example of anti-science fiction where even the most fantastic future technology ultimately changes nothing about the human condition. It is another black mark against Hollywood (the bastion of science fiction myopia) if the deficiencies of Star Gate are what makes people shy away from stories about very ancient astronauts.
In Media Res
I'm a fan of stories that start in mid-stride, but I'm old-school and I like a reliable narrator who can get me oriented. I was only about half a page into The Deep Link before I started wondering if some elements of the story would ever get explained. Three examples:
|body part humor: making three points|
2) "mandible pendant" - our protagonist grew up among insectoid hive-dwelling aliens and this relic pendant ends up being the tool that allows a deep link to form between a human and a cyberhackmaster alien.
3) "fugue" - I don't know who first came up with the idea that hyperspace jumps would cause side-effects. Asimov included this aspect of imaginary human physiology in some of his stories. On Page 125 we finally get this "explanation":
I'm a biologist, so I'm always intrigued whenever a biology-related topic pops up in a science fiction story. As a science nerd, I can't stop myself from asking: why does FTL travel cause brains to go haywire?
Einstein made us think of gravity as a property of space-time, so I guess by the rules of fictional future science extrapolation, readers should not be surprised if asked to believe that FTL travel will involve converting brain matter into a "property of space-time".
Sadly, in the Ascendancy Fictional Universe, when our brains complete an FTL journey and again become matter, they are unable to function normally.
... OK. But what is "normal"?
It Takes A Village
|telepathy machines! minds in space!|
In cyberpunk stories we must be able to link computers to minds and minds to computers and alien minds to human minds, even across interstellar distances, so we need to submit to handwavium and Phylra and we should probably not ask too many questions.
I love stories about imagined futures with nifty technologies like advanced nanotechnology. In The Deep Link we have chunks of human brains replaced by nano-tech, nano-synthetic fiber, nanites, nano meshes and:
|Sci Fi in the 20th century|
For me, there is nothing more mind-numbing and story-killing than fictional politics. In The Deep Link we go into hyperdrive and get xeno-politics which requires the support of Drs. of Xenology working in their xenology labs and xeno-specialists, xeno-linguists and xeno-diplomats arrayed in xeno-investigative departments where they consult xeno-databases before deploying their xeno-genic weapons and xeno-morphed ships.
|in the previous millennium|
It was so much easier in the previous millennium when authors like Asimov could just insert a synapsifier or a telepathic positronic robot into a story and then move on.
|which is more fun?|
Hell or Hades?
One more biology bit... a type of alien brain-invading creature that was inserted into the story is called a Cyan. This sets the stage for when the protagonist of The Deep Link gets to visit Hades where all would be lost for the TMC if the Ticks had to contend with invading Cyans. But they don't. But we do get to amp up the xeno-phobia.
Full disclosure: I have not read all of The Deep Link. I already had my fill of cyberpunk themes by about 1982, even before the sub-genre was named. I do wish I knew more about the imaginary science of Phylra so that I could compare that intriguing bit of future science to my own imaginary telastids. Maybe there will be more Phylra science in the remaining books of the Ascendancy Trilogy (not this one).
Next: Star Trek fan fiction for the 2017 reboot.
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