Society of the Mind: A Cyberthriller

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9780060176945: Society of the Mind: A Cyberthriller

Laura Aldrich, a young Harvard psychology professor, is offered a fortune to take a job at the isolated island compound of genius-cum-madman Joseph Gray psychoanalyzing Gray's all-powerful, all-too-humanlike computer. By the author of Arc Light. 60,000 first printing. $60,000 ad/promo. Tour.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Gee whiz techno-thriller about the evolution of computers, from the author of Arc Light (1994). The human story here is blander than a Harlequin: Laura Aldrich, lonely Harvard psychology professor, whose brilliance is misunderstood by her stick-in-the-mud, tenure-seeking colleagues, receives a letter from a famous industrialist, Joseph Gray, offering her a million dollars for one week's work. She's heard terrible things about this Gray fellow, but a million dollars is a lot of money, so she boards a jet for an island in the South Pacific. Shades of Dr. No and Dr. Moreau: Gray appears to be a mad scientist, shooting off rockets and developing a super computer at depths below the ocean floor, but really he's just a lonely, overworked guy; unknown to Laura or Gray, the computer has matched the pair as perfect for each other. Anyhow, Laura's job is to analyze the computer to decide (1) if it has achieved sentience, and (2) if it's depressed. Yes--in both cases: Gray's magnificent computer is a very upset adolescent girl named Gina. Harry plays out this nonsense with a dour seriousness, but the ideas he puts forth, and his knowledge of computing, are extremely engaging. Laura's conversations with Gina, Gina's paranoid fears of an ``Other'' gradually usurping her functions, driverless cars, virtual reality, the limits of digital computing, the advent of ``neurocomputing'' and true artificial intelligence, high-level robots that evolve from infancy into adolescence, the necessity of space exploration, rocketry, and mining in space are all discussed with informed, cutting-edge flair, and it's refreshing to read a tale of this sort in which the computer fails to run amok. Harry has a first-rate speculative mind well grounded in current science. His thriller, however, ain't thrilling. On a scale of one to ten: story, one; technology, ten. ($60,000 ad/promo; author tour) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In his new techno-thriller, the author of Arc Light transports readers to an island in the near future where robots build robots and a virtual reality chamber includes an "exoskeleton" suit to allow you to feel simulated heat and cold, flowers and rocks. Harvard psychology professor Laura Aldrich is summoned to the estate of eccentric billionaire Joseph Gray. Her task is to diagnose possible mental illness in his supercomputer, which, like Gray's robots, has been constructed from neural networks and patiently taught physical and mental skills. Is Gray a mad genius bent on ruling (or destroying) the world? Or will he advance civilization beyond our wildest dreams? While preparing to divert a doomsday asteroid plummeting toward Earth, the humans in Harry's novel must cope with insurgent robots and face the consequences of Gray's brilliance. Laura and her laptop computer explore the island, facing danger from the dense jungle and attacks by rogue robots as she (and we) are introduced to artificial intelligence, robotics computer viruses and virtual reality. The plot, while primarily a vehicle to explicate technological advances, is nevertheless compelling. Like Crichton and H.G. Wells, Harry writes stories just this side of science fiction that entertain roundly while they explore questions of scientific and social import. $60,000 ad/promo; simultaneous HarperAudio release; author tour; foreign rights sold to the U.K., Japan, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands; U.K., translation, dramatic rights: Jay Garon.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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