Sunday Ahzmundin is one of 30,000 people aboard the Eriophora, a spaceship that traverses the galaxy building wormhole gates, which it has doing for over 60 million years. The ship’s AI, called the Chimp, keeps everyone in stasis most of the time. Sunday wakes up in a group with 5 or 6 other people every thousand years, but she’s only awake a few days each time so she’s only aged about 20 years.
Sunday used to believe in the mission for which she was bred. She used to like spending time with the Chimp, reading some range of emotional intelligence into its behavior. She even saw it dance once. But when she finds that some lives are considered expendable, everything changes. How do you conspire against an AI when the ship can see and hear through your neural implants, only wakes you when it wants, and controls who is woken with you?
The premise of the story is fantastic. After a semi-technical introduction about punching black holes through space, Sunday brings you up to speed on her situation, including how often she’s been awake over the past 60 million years and that she’s often referred to as the ships’ “pet”. I’m a big fan of scifi about AI, and I fully expected Chimp to follow in the footsteps of HAL 9000, but he is his own computer. The plot heats up slowly as Sunday joins the resistance to overthrow Chimp and end the mission. The revolution sends secret coded messages through D&D manuals and musical compositions.
I’m surprised how well paced the story manages to be when all the humans have to go back to sleep for thousands of years every couple of chapters. However, the book misses out on what should be some good emotional reactions to fellow shipmates, Chimp, and the events that follow from the protagonist. Recommended as a short hard scifi that’s big on both time and spatial scope!
Thanks to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for the advance readers’ copy!
“Everyone who dies on the mission expects to die on the mission. You all knew you’d most likely spend your lives here. You knew you’d mostly likely die here. You knew the expected mortality rates going in; the fact that they were too high means that on average you’ve lived longer than you expected to. Even after the relocation of the archive we’re still outperforming the median scenario.
You mean there’s still a meat surplus.”