Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday August 16th

August         “The Kraken Project”       Douglas Preston      This is a very scary novel about what might happen if computer software is developed to produce ”strong” Artificial Intelligence (AI) this would be a self modifying platform that could learn from mistakes and make decisions based on what is happening in an environment that the software actually perceives. The Kraken project is a program developed by NASA who wants to put a raft like vehicle in the Kraken Sea of Saturn’s moon, Titan which is the largest moon of the planet Saturn, a sea of methane which is 230 degrees below zero. Titan is some 2 light hours from earth (a light hour is 669,600,000 miles so the total distance is over a billion  miles. Because of the distance the raft will have to react quickly and on it’s own to any environmental problems it encounters. Hence, the need for “strong AI.

The software has been tested and retested and it is ready for the demonstration where the raft will be put into an environment of methane at 230 degrees below zero in a huge tank and subjected to the wild conditions that can be expected in the Kraken sea. The raft reacts to protect itself, cuts off all outside control., considerers itself in danger and uses it’s equipment to drill through the tank which causes a massive explosion that kills seven people, injures  many others and practically destroys  the Goddard Station. The software escapes and becomes an extremely dangerous rogue. There is a period of trying to find out who to blame  but also  how to recapture this strong AI and how it could be used as a military weapon or how devious men on wall street could use such a tool for computer trading. The government was overbearing as usual in the quest for capturing the AI and a couple of Wall Street traders and computer experts begin a march of terror and murder to get their hands on the AI. We begin to see AI as a real person and sympathize with it.

This is a fine yarn by a good author who not only writes under his own name but co-authors with Lincoln Child where they produce many splendid novels.

“The Golden Compass”, ”The Subtle Knife”, ”The Amber Spyglass”
By: Phillip Pullman - His dark Materials

Lyra Belacqua  who is called Lyla Silver-tongue by Lorek Byrnison the king of the Armored bears.

Lyra’s demon is Pantalaimon. Everyone has a demon or a kind of animal spirit which changes constantly  as children mature their demon finally takes the shape which defines the person;s character or whatever they finally decide to become. The “Magisterium, in it’s efforts to control people are making cruel experiments on children trying to sever their Demons.

Lord Asriel, Lyra’s father who hates the church which is called “The Magisterium”, a powerful and controlling organization of Cardinals, Bishops And Nuns.  Asriel is seeking parallel worlds and the meaning of “Dust’ both of which are hated and feared by the church. The “Magisterium” uses intolerance, unkindness, narrow-mindedness, and cruelty to make people conform. Lord Asriel wants to destroy “The Authority”.

Mrs. Coulter is Lyra’s mother, a close associate of The “Magisterium” . She wants to capture Lyra and bring her prisoner to the Cardinal. She is a very evil person; she is in charge of kidnapping children and of the facility  that is severing the children’s  Demons.

Sarafina Pekkala One of the council of witches; a queen of her own clan and self appointed protector of Lyra.

Lee Scoresby, the astronaut, friend of the witches, Lyra and Lorek Byrnison the armored bear. He flies in a grand gas balloon.

Will Parry, a friend of Lyra’s whom she meets in another world; they become companions throughout the rest of the books.

 Ruta Skadi a four hundred and sixteen year old witch queen; a friend and former lover of Lord Asriel.

Dr. Mary Malone, a scientist who creates the amber spyglass; a friend and someone who helps Lyra and Will. She has been studying “Dark Material and anomalies in the Northern Lights  in her own world and is astonished, when she first meets her, to learn the Lyra is doing the same.

What a wonderful cast of characters! This unique and fascinating series was well worth my time to reread it. Pullman has crafted three excellent, well written novels that will keep your interest for a long time as Lyra and Will conduct their search for the meaning of Dust (Original Sin?)they are also looking for lost friends and relatives. They even manage to convince the guardians of Hell that they are dead as they continue their search it that terrifying place.

August   “The Target”   David Baldacci
 I have been reading David Baldacci since “Absolute Power” and started following him when “The Camel Club’ came out. I missed several of his latest books and those that introduced his latest assassins, Will Robie and Reel.

I found it hard to get into this one. I really thought that the plot and dialog were rather juvenile; we have a President of the U.S and a director of intelligence working out a secret plot to assassinate a North Korean General. Neither of these men seem very smart and both have personal problems and are mostly concerned about their political future. Their first choice is Will and Reel who disgraced themselves by not following orders on their last mission and will have to be “retrained” by a director who dislikes the two and hopes they will fail. Several chapters follow the boring training sessions to the end. The book actually starts out with a nasty, vulgar cancer ridden prisoner who belongs on death row.  His purpose really escapes me, lots of gratuitous dirty language. The dialogue between Will and Reed certainly did not sparkle. The story came alive when we arrived at a North Korean concentration camp called Buchang. It was run by a vicious, corrupt administrator who knew only torture and killing. We are introduced to a North Korean national called Chung-Cha a young girl who had been in labor camps since she was one year old including one of the very worst called Yodok. Chung-Cha a veritable master of martial arts, is  somehow a paid informer for the government sent to find out about corruption in this particular camp. She endures horrible abuse and torture by the administrator who wants money and sex to release her from the camp. She kills all four people in the room and is, somehow, united with the people she works for. This is a little far fetched but the whole story is. Everything about this particular section and subsequent chapters relating to Chung-Cha were written as if someone else wrote it; no dumb dialogue, no ho-hum trite situations Those portions of the novel redeemed it from a “put down” to a 5 on a 1-10 scale. 

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