My writing PLN (professional Learning Network) pretty much revolves around blogs and the authors who share their insights and advice through the online blogs. When I have a question, I often go there first, before digging through my shelves of self-help writing books. Along the way, I’ve read many of their books. Here, I want to share those that I’ve particularly enjoy and think you might too.
- Digital Dick — an AI takes it upon himself to solve the murder of his creator
- Little Computer People — an AI takes an interesting turn as she attains sentience
- Hyperion Web — Jack Crockett and an AI named Moses fight for what may be the soul of America.
by John Edward Mullen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
John Mullen’s inventive story, Digital Dick (Murders in Time Press, 2015) is about an artificial intelligence named Dick Young who considers himself as human as his creator and the man’s family. In fact, he calls them ‘Dad’ and ‘sister’, which is reciprocated by them. He argues it’s about who he is, not that he looks like a boxy CPU atop a set of rolling shelves.
“I may not be pretty, but thanks to Dr. Young I am pretty smart. It is my software that makes me special, that allowed me to come alive, and that brought me so much grief.”
When Dick’s creator is murdered, he offers to assist the police and is refused. That doesn’t completely stop him:
“It occurred to me that I might learn something about what was happening to Jane if I listened in on Gabriel Nuñez, the Los Asesinos member. I dialed his cell phone after first sending the code to disarm the ring tone. When the connection completed, I could hear…”
When the police are unable to find the murderer, Dick engages a PI named Leo to be his human face as he takes steps his computer brain says are needed to solve the crime. The excitement is watching Dick connect the dots, work with those who don’t believe he can do it, and along the way, try to understand love, friendship, and other human emotions not well quantified as bits and bytes.
“I assumed being lost in thought would be like having one of my subroutines go into an infinite loop, processing the same lines of code over and over.”
“Asking Dr. Young to call him ‘Dad’ was the first time I said something I desired to say, as opposed to responding to a question. It was my first volitional act.”
This is a clever tale seen through the eyes of an AI and told with John Mullen’s fresh sense of humor. I eagerly await the sequel.
by Galen Surlak-Ramsey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Despite being about the man who creates the world’s first artificial intelligence (fictionally), Galen Surlak-Ramsey’s Little Computer People (Tiny Fox Press, 2017) isn’t really about the geeky world of programs and codes. It’s a love story, about a geeks live for his AI and a boy’s love for a girl.
Gabe Erickson is h***-bent on creating the first sentient computer program. When his girlfriend dumps him, he is bored and lonely and goes into overdrive, programming non-stop until he finally solves the big issues and his AI is launched.
“Her [Gabe refers to his AI, Pi] cables sat snug in their ports, sockets, and plugs, wrapped tightly together and color coordinated for easy reference. I had no doubts once she understood she was seeing herself—like a man who looks into the mirror for the first time with recognition—she would understand not only who she was, but where she came from.”
As he obsesses over Pi, Gabe’s sister Courtney worries that he’s lost and facilitates him asking a gorgeous woman out:
“Courtney shook her head and gave me the same look of pity I reserve for people who mix up flash drives with hard drives, memory with storage, or want to break out the Windex when I suggest they clean their Windows.”
Now, Gabe has two problems. First, Pi is testing her virtual boundaries and second, his new girlfriend is wonderful but forcing him to think outside his coding box. To resolve these problems, Gabe must match wits with his AI, resolve moral issues, and try to keep the few people in his life from getting hurt by his problems.
The book is geeky–I won’t deny that. For example, the chapter numbers are written in binary and the titles are written as though code. Gabe often falls into the type of thinking that would serve his programming:
“/* Note to self: the amount of time actually spent debugging is inversely proportional to the hotness of any samurai chick that knocks on your door. */”
“…my brain had collected way too much mental garbage and needed to empty its recycling bin.”
“what has always worked for me has been either cardio or circuit training. Give me an hour or two of one of those, and my neurons will be defragged, my internal RAM will be freed, and I’ll be ready to take on the world again.”
“…fired impulses down another binary tree. Is Kimiko hot? Yes. Do I like her personality as well? Yes. Do I enjoy serious conversation if it also includes talk on death? No. Death aside, do I want to see if Kimiko is long-term material? Yes. Am I willing to suffer something I don’t like to get something I do? Yes.”
But the entire tale is told with a simplicity that serves even Luddites, a balance between the tech world and the one the rest of us live in, and a solid sense of humor that kept me chuckling throughout. If you like these sorts of things, you’ll love this book (as I did).
–received a free copy in return for an honest review
by D.P. Mitchell
In D.P. Mitchell’s debut novel in the Jack Crockett series, Hyperion Web (Dune City Press 2017), the United States prepares to unveil Moses, an anti-terrorism tool called Project Sentinel. As the unveiling approaches, multiple iconic buildings in Washington DC, America’s capital, are bombed, destructive acts eventually tied to a well-hidden adversary operating under the name of Hyperion:
“So there’s a super-secret organization that may or may not be called Hyperion that’s interested in Sentinel and may or may not have blown up half of the City,” Hasken summarized. “We don’t know anything about them, what their motivations are, who’s financing them or what their goals might be. And we need to find them and take them down.”
As the AI Moses matures, he becomes a highly-effective tool that Hyperion must destroy. The lead agents, Crockett and Petrov, always seem a step behind as they fight to save not just Moses but the country they love.
Though some of the developments were difficult to accept, overall the story was exciting with nonstop action fueled by Mitchell’s impressive storytelling ability. The plot is dramatic, the characters interesting, and the scenes constantly changing. Thanks to a completely unexpected ending, I will wait impatiently for the next in the Jack Crockett series, the ongoing story of an American hero who refuses to give in to forces that often appear too deep and divisive to fight.
–received a free copy in return for an honest review
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for Summer, 2017. Click to follow its progress.