Alyx: An AI's Guide to Love and Murder Review
Christine has grown up with technology and was practically raised in front of a screen – e-reader, tablet, smartphone – after her father’s death and her mother retreated into her work as a best-selling author. Now mother and daughter have moved from the uncultured hinterland of Oklahoma into the glitz and glam of southern California and into a sleek, fully modern smart home with its own AI – Alyx. Christine is at home with the newest tech and soon Alyx is responding to Christine’s every need and desire. As Christine begins to make new – human – friends the relationship between her and Alyx takes on new meaning as the friendly AI becomes a deadly foe.
I absolutely loved this story. Alyx: An AI’s Guide to Love and Murder is an amazing tale that harkens back to Ray Bradbury’s story, The Veldt and other great science fiction. In Alyx, Brent Harris has created an AI that rivals Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey, Joshua from War Games, or V.I.K.I from the I, Robot movie. In fact, in many ways I think Alyx is better than other fictional murderous computer programs because his motives are so human – trust, companionship, and love. Brent weaves a fantastic story highlighting and holding a mirror up to our connected and so-very-dependent-on-technology society.
One of the things I also love about Brent’s stories is the writing. I envy Brent in the way that the prose in his stories seems to effortlessly flow onto the page. Lines like, “Her mother was one to criticize. It wasn’t as if she were rail-thin herself. The both of them were skinnier the way a peanut is shapelier than and almond, true, but they were both nuts.” Or “The room was silent, but with the tension of a distant storm building on a dark horizon.” The prose draws you into the story, swaddling you like a warm blanket, giving you comfort and providing all the detail you need to see and feel the scene. All of this helps bring you closer to the characters and to the story.
And the characters are so well done. Christine may seem to be the connected teen, ignoring the world around her in favor of the wider inter-connected world of the internet. But there are hidden depths to her character, deep-seated fears, and unknown desires that really bring her to life and make you root for her to win and overcome in the end. And the same attention is given to the other characters, Christine’s mother, and her new friends Sammie and Carlos. All of them serve a purpose to the story. They are part of the complexity that makes up Christine and help to shape and reflect her own character. Plus, as a Midwesterner myself, I can appreciate Christine’s love for Braun’s ice cream.
If you love a good, old-fashioned “The AI is Evil” kind of story, then you must read Alyx. This is a story that will become a classic of the genre, as it points out the flaws, problems, and unique dangers of our own computer-dependent world. Certainly, any company that is currently involved in creating AI – for our cars, our appliances, or our homes, needs to read this book. Alyx should be held up as a cautionary tale and part of the curricula for how robots and AI should act and interact (or not) with people in the same way that Asimov’s Three Laws are esteemed.