James Fox Higgins - Ghost of Emily

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by R-Hat, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. R-Hat

    R-Hat Well-Known Member

    I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Normally the first time authors and community efforts do not go well together. I know a lot of things behind the scenes, but instead of spoilage, I really liked the way it is all implemented. I wonder how a complete stranger would regard the book, but a lot of it is about the present and some characters will seem familiar. You may definitely put Ghost of Emily next to such a book as The Forge of Elders by L. Neil Smith. Not because of similar style, but similar message. Yes, this is proper sci-fi, but philosophy plays a serious role. Philosophy is not this weird or nebulous academic effort, it is the most practical thing, admitting that some words and actions make sense together and some don't, and that's the cause of all the good and evil in the world.

    Without spoiling anything, this science-fiction is a classic framework of a growing artificial intelligence bent on world domination and destruction of humanity, but instead of the total war of Skynet, the net is spun of good intentions and old human vices and temptations. The characters of the story fight back, not only with weapons and science, but also with moral arguments, commitment to reality and I dare to say, deliberate peaceful parenting of children. And it's not like much of humanity isn't just as bad as the robots, who after all are trying to save us from ourselves and some very grim global events.
    Also, if you love or hate Elon Musk, you will love this book.

    I found the story progressing easily, without any dull places, but ever-present cliffhangers. This was a must to buy, just to see what Fox is up to, but well worth it. Why exactly? The Ghost of Emily has this quality of art - I don't know if it's good or bad, but it's powerful, captivating. It's inspiring in the way that it's good but not perfect, much of the enjoyment comes from thinking how I could improve or add to the story - and that's not something that happens to me very often. It's a way for the book world to enclose you. I will definitely buy the next books in trilogy, when they come out.

    Diziet Sma and Boreas like this.
  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Good review. I've bookmarked this title. The premise reminds me a bit of the Quiet War that took place in the history of Neal Asher's Polity setting minus the intent to destroy humanity; rather, to husband and direct its overall course of action. In brief, what are some of the moral arguments presented for each side?

    I've also been meaning to read L. Neil Smith. I don't have The Forge of Elders but I have two other of his books.
  3. R-Hat

    R-Hat Well-Known Member

    Well, the intent is not to destroy humanity per se, the intent is to save humanity - the problem is in definition of "save". Good definitions are close to the root of all philosophy and I absolutely love when sci-fi goes deep enough for definitions to have a great impact.
    Here the definition is pretty thorough - save humanity from all suffering. You'll see, the conflict is between cyber-communism - collectivization of not just of resources, but also minds and bodies, in the name of happiness and equality. The other the philosophy of freedom, responsibility and property rights, including the body itself, no matter if there is some human discomfort and inequality involved - like living in wilderness and having to hunt. But the book is far from suggesting primitivism, quite opposite, the main characters embrace sciences and technology, they just have to hide from danger a lot. So you end up with people sitting at a campfire in Australian bush, talking about Aristotle.

    Yes, much of the book is inspired by my and the author's favorite persons, at least one of them still living. The similarity may be purely coincidental, but I wonder what he'd think, I'll be sure to send him a message :)
  4. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Let me take a guess...Thomas Sowell?
  5. R-Hat

    R-Hat Well-Known Member

    I keep hearing a lot of good things about that Thomas Sowell. But in the book Ghost of Emily there is one fictitious philosopher "Jeremy Delacroix". And I happen to be a big fan of a real living contemporary philosopher, very prolific author and podcaster named Stefan Molyneux. Huh. Must be coincidence. In any case, both use the reasoning from first principles and trumping ideas with empiricism, based on Aristotle's works. I come from that tradition too.

    Neal Asher's Polity is another work that gets mentioned here a lot, but at the moment I am even more curious about Vernor Vinge's "Fire upon the deep" or that other novel of his, with similar content. The encounter of a highly technological society with a low-tech one, that is something that fascinated me ever since some Banks Culture novels, or Singularity Sky by Charles Stross.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017
  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Thomas Sowell deserves a Nobel, but he'll never get one.

    Asher's Polity is pure fun. Completely plot-centered and the Polity doesn't try to legitimize itself the same way the Culture does its 'exceptionalism'. In the end, they make for great adventures and are not at all about imparting any messages, although strong inferences can definitely be made. Asher is great because he's pure action and revels in it, especially in the Ian Cormac series. (EDIT: And he writes smart stories without being philosophical or cerebral, plus I like the effort he makes with aspects of the science and technology.) I'm still on the second instalment of the Spatterjay trilogy, and this one is also seriously fun!

    Vinge is also great. AFutD is the introduction to his Zones of Thought milieu, but it focuses almost exclusively on the low tech setting for most of the narrative. The real contrast between high- and low-tech societies is drawn out in A Deepness in the Sky. And while these are great fun to read, I would give my strongest recommendation for Vinge's Marooned in Realtime, although it's better to read the near future The Peace War first, since the technology developed in TPW is the impetus for the fantastic plot in MiR. Although, you probably could read them out of order without much trouble. They're very different books. They should be available in an omnibus edition with the story "The Ungoverned" bridging the two novels.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017
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