Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction, science fiction mystery
Published by Tordotcom on July 25, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
Emergent Properties is the touching adventure of an intrepid A.I. reporter hot on the heels of brewing corporate warfare from Nebula Award-nominated author Aimee Ogden.
A state-of-the-art AI with a talent for asking questions and finding answers, Scorn is nevertheless a parental disappointment. Defying the expectations of zir human mothers, CEOs of the world’s most powerful corporations, Scorn has made a life of zir own as an investigative reporter, crisscrossing the globe in pursuit of the truth, no matter the danger.
In the middle of investigating a story on the moon, Scorn comes back online to discover ze has no memory of the past ten days—and no idea what story ze was even chasing. Letting it go is not an option—not if ze wants to prove zirself. Scorn must retrace zir steps in a harrowing journey to uncover an even more explosive truth than ze could have ever imagined.
When we first meet Scorn, ze is pretty much of a mess. A very determined mess, but a mess all the same. Ze has just lost over ten days of memory – along with ALL of zir backups. As ze is an autonomous AI, that shouldn’t even be possible. But as ze is an investigative reporter doing zir best to make zir mark by breaking a sensational story to get zir high-powered, highly intelligent, mega-corporation-owning mothers off zir back about zir’s career choices, it’s a tragedy in the making.
At the same time, in the best tradition of investigative reporters everywhere and everywhen, it’s also a sign that ze is on the right track to that story. Which means that ze is incapable of letting it go. And as a state-of-the-art AI, Scorn is capable of retracing his steps, both digital and physical, to get back what ze lost.
On the moon, which is where Scorn lost it the first time. Which is also the last place zir mothers want zem to go – considering Scorn’s last trip got zir memory wiped.
Emergent Properties is the story of Scorn’s journey back to where ze nearly lost zirself, dodging EMP pulses and drone attacks every step of the way, along the trail of a story that will either make or break zem.
Or both. Definitely both. In ways that Scorn never, ever expected – even though ze very much should have.
Escape Rating A++: I’ve been pushing this book at anyone willing to stand still for it for months. I read this one for a Library Journal review and fell completely in love, and don’t seem to have fallen out in the intervening months. To the point where a reread just now was like catching up with an old friend.
One of the things I loved about Scorn is that ze is pretty much Murderbot’s ‘brother from another mother’, even though neither identifies as or even has a gender. Which doesn’t change how much their snarkitude is in sync even if pointed in different directions.
Notice I didn’t say anything about either of them not having a mother, because Scorn certainly has two – both of whom are giving zem exactly the same kind of grief that mothers the world over give their newly adult children when those children are not living their parents’ dreams for them.
Mother may not always know best, but she always thinks she does, and Scorn is getting that times two. Which ze does zir best to ignore or delay or postpone dealing with, as so many of us do. At least until this time it bites zem in the ass – in multiple senses of the phrase – even if Scorn doesn’t always have an ass, depending on which carapace ze happens to be using at the present.
While Scorn is very much the character that carries the story, the places ze carries that story through are both fascinating and fantastic every step of the way.
A part of this reader wants to say that Scorn comes across as very human, because that’s our default paradigm. But like Murderbot, Scorn isn’t human and doesn’t want to be – no matter how much zir mothers hoped that ze would aspire to such.
And the whole idea that ze still must deal with zir human mothers and their human disappointment in zem is what makes Scorn so easy for human readers to identify with. Ze has mommy issues – and don’t we all?
But zir world is our future, and it feels plausible even as we get sucked into it. Human greed carried out through corporate political shenanigans is running the show. Independence for human colonies and autonomy for sentient, sapient, autonomous AIs are being spun into opposition instead of banding together to help each other. Because the corporations make more profits out of war than they do peace.
Scorn moves through zir world as an AI, not a fixed body in time and space. Ze uses bodies, but is not attached to or possessed by one, and it changes zir perspective in ways that go even beyond what we’ve already seen in John Scalzi’s Lock In, although there are some similarities. Scorn goes well beyond the ‘threeps’ in what ze does and how ze does it. It feels like a next step.
At the same time, Scorn’s emotional landscape is as fraught and confused as any human’s. Ze just processes it differently some of the time, and turns it off some of the time, but it is still recognizable and well within our empathetic parameters.
So I had an absolute blast reading about Scorn’s surprising Emergent Properties, was fascinated with zir world, and hope the author takes us back to zir and it sometime in the future!