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on February 4, 2012
EDIT 11/15 - Author commented below and has revised the book. I read this in 2012 before revisions and have not re-read. Just wanted to make anyone who reads this be aware that there is a revised version out now.

I downloaded this as an ebook based on some very good target marketing on Facebook. I have "friended" the SingularityHub page on FB. I was looking forward to reading this as I really like this type of book.

However, I was pretty disappointed in the book. This is not to say that this isn't a good first novel, but it's not a great one and I really don't think it deserves all the 5 star reviews.

Here is what I liked about it:
- the subject matter, always very interesting to see what people come up with for AIs and the Singularity.
- the price for an unknown writer's ebook
- it wasn't difficult to read, but the author's style needs to be honed

Here is what I didn't like about it:
- I often felt like I was being lectured to
- A lot of "telling" not "showing" in terms of situation
- It was just too difficult to suspend disbelief. Middle East peace based on emails? There was just too much dependency on the concept that no one actually talks to anyone else anymore. Especially, in politics.
- Characters lacked depth for example there was absolutely no sense that the head of Avogadro Corp was very upset at all about any of it. I think I get the personality that he was trying to create but I just don't think it worked.

Similar books that I liked:
Daemon by Daniel Suarez (very similar topic in some ways) Daemon
Accelerando by Charles Stross Accelerando (Singularity)
Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge Rainbows End
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on December 12, 2011
William Hertling sets "Avogadro Corp" in modern day Portland, Oregon. Avogadro Corp is a thinly veiled fictional Google, with AvoMail as key aspect of the story. While "Avogadro Corp" is the first in a series of three (so far), it easily stands alone as a terrific, and stunningly believable, account of how the first sentient artificial intelligence might accidently arise. In a man vs. machine conflict, our protagonist David Ryan, as a contemporary Dr. Frankenstein, battles to destroy the thing he creates. A majority of the characters are well-developed and distinct; the ones that are a bit one-dimensional are minor characters. The pace of the book is quite fast with only a few tangential story arcs to mentally maintain. In fact, I made the "mistake" of starting the book at bedtime; I was finished by lunch the next day. I simply could not put it down.

David Ryan, a software engineer at Avogadro Corp, is working on a recommendation engine for their flagship product, AvoMail. The recommendation engine, Email Language Optimization Program (ELOPe), is designed to provide suggestions for better wording for your outgoing emails so that the recipient is more receptive. When the project is in jeopardy of being cancelled, David inserts a hidden self-preservation directive into ELOPe and allows it to autonomously rewrite outgoing emails related to the project. Once ELOPe begins redirecting corporate funds and arming itself in offshore floating data centers, David and coworker Mike set about trying to take down ELOPe with the help of I-trust-paper-not-computers internal auditor Gene.

One aspect of Hertling's novel that I found intriguing was that by never revealing the internal motivation of ELOPe, you too are brought on this journey of how to destroy the "ghost in the machine." Also, as a resident of Portland, I enjoyed that the book was set here and incorporates its coffee culture.
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on October 25, 2013
William Hertling's "Singularity Series" of three sequential novels is a fast-paced and entertaining look at how the relationships between people and their technology creations might evolve over the next 50 years:

* Avogadro Corp.: The Singularity is Closer than it Appears
* A.I. Apocalypse
* The Last Firewall

The approach goes way beyond traditional sci-fi robotics to the essential technology programming that changes into much more advanced forms than anticipated. And that's where the fun comes in.

A central concept to this series is "singularity" which takes on different meanings as the broad story develops. The convergence of people and technology reaches a surprising state by the conclusion.

Each book of Hertling's trilogy is reviewed individually with a common introduction (on its Amazon site location) but with references to the other books since the storylines and the four main human characters - Mike Williams, Rebecca Smith, Leon Tsarev and Catherine Matthews - play central and, to some extent, on-going roles in specific books.

One other note: throughout each of the books there are technological terms and discussions, which add the patina of plausibility to the immediate story and characters. Do not feel overwhelmed or try to grasp the meanings unless so inclined. Their immediate value is to provide a "what and how is it happening" at the moment - an updated twist on Alfred Hitchcock's MacGuffin.

During the mid 20th century the long-held idea of mind and body as separate entities coming into coincidental existence at birth was rejected in favor of a more evolutionary explanation for the development of the brain. The earlier view was characterized as "the ghost in the machine." Hertling's creations give this debate a fresh perspective.

* * *

"Avogadro Corp.: The Singularity is Closer than it Appears" is the first book of the "Singularity" trilogy and tells of the rise of a sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) called ELOPe (Email Language Optimization Program) as an unexpected bi-product of an Avogadro Corporation project for an improved email composition auto-correct function. The timeframe is within the next ten to fifteen years.

To protect the project development and its funding, one of the two managers, Dave Ryan, writes additional commands for ELOPe to adjust any language or programs in emails so that outcomes are favorable for sustaining itself. By the time his partner, Mike Williams, is aware of this change, events are literally running out of control at the speed of light.

In a semblance to HAL 9000 from Arthur C. Clarke's futuristic novel (and later film), "2001: Space Odyssey," ELOPe quickly amasses capabilities that transcend a single program to become a sentient electronic identity. Despite the termination efforts of Avogadro Corporation and its executive staff headed by Rebecca West, ELOPe proves capable of altering interactions between people, groups and nations with potentially positive outcomes for all parties and, ultimately, itself.

The dilemma driving the players is whether to accept ELOPe's capabilities and guiding efforts or to figure out how to corral ELOPe so that the world can continue, as they know it. The outcome will leave room for plenty of debate and an opportunity to examine the assumptions about the current uses of technology.

One of Hertling's plotting approaches is similar to that of the Polish science fiction writer, Stanislaw Lem. In his 1960's satiric novel, "Memoirs Found in a Bathtub," Lem explored the potential human reactions to the unexpected destruction of everything containing paper and its impact on behavior. Hertling is doing a contemporary version with the elimination of email content control - an entertaining and believable premise given its nearly universal acceptance.
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on December 11, 2011
When I first read this book, I really thought that it was a fanciful look at something that could never occur. It was a fun read and then I put it aside. Then about 3 months later, I started noticing that Google Mail was getting smarter and smarter. It seemed that if I sent an e-mail about a product I was thinking about, within a day or so, an ad would show up. I also realized that if I wrote something like "attached file" in the e-mail and didn't actually attach a file, they would warn me. Pretty smart stuff, but then I remember reading this book. This made up story about an intelligent system that could never actually occur, right??? I went back and re-read the book. Holy Smokes, this could/is really happening. How far-fetched is this really?

I think Will Hertling has hit it out of the park with this novel. I look forward to reading more from him.
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on January 20, 2012
I found this ebook through a Facebook ad. The price was right, so I thought I'd check it out since the premise was intriguing. Perhaps it's because I just finished Neal Stephenson's latest 1000 page novel Reamde: A Novel, but I felt that the character realizations in Avogadro Corp could have been more fully fleshed out. The character of Christine, in particular, seemed to be little more than a paper cutout. I also felt that few of the major characters were ever placed in any real danger. Why should I care about any of them, in that case, since I don't know that much about them and they don't seem to be in any danger in any case. I give it three stars anyway, since it is reasonably well-written, set in Portland, and the premise of the rise of the Singularity was original and very plausibly laid out.
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on May 19, 2013
Remind me to eat before writing any reviews. Mr. Hertling's book was a quick, somewhat interesting read. Having recently retired from an IT type job I found his knowledge of the workings of an IT related business believable. In fact, at times I felt like I was back at work while reading it. The basic premise of the book, a rogue email enhancement program, was intriguing. The extent of influence the program had was a little hard to swallow. Too much reliance on emails effecting major business/government actions. Face-to-face interaction is still important in today's world, not everything is done via email. Decisions are usually made after extensive sales staff wining and dining, entertaining, and negotiation. The speed that major events occurred was unrealistic. Some more editing of the book might have caught some errors. The ending was a little difficult to follow, maybe someone can explain it to me?
I will probably read the next book in the series. I was reading a Neal Stephenson book, REAMDE, at the same time. The difference between the two books made Avogadro seem a little amateurish but I applaud Mr. Hertling's first attempt and would encourage him to continue writing and improving.
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on September 10, 2013
The premise sounds interesting. An internet company trying to improve a key product tweaks their code and it becomes self aware... A self aware AI - that somehow isn't even a character in the story.

Overall, the execution is poor. The smart folks who develop the products actually aren't very smart at all. There's no twists or turns to this story because the characters are so stupid you know what's going to happen... It's one thing for characters to be outwitted - another when those characters haven't been outwitted because they're actually dimwitted...

The final nail in the coffin of this book - it's in dire need of a proof reader. In the early pages of the book, the author talks about the rise of spelling and grammar checkers... Sadly it doesn't appear that either got a crack at this book before it was released...
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on October 21, 2014
Really enjoyed this sci fi work, book one of a three book series, as I understand it. A great entertaining read and quite a bit of tension as things go awry after a last minute attempt to keep his project alive having unforeseen consequences. If you enjoy reading about computer science and the effort to improve our lives working with this technology, and within this novel, working within a corporate email system product which seeks refinements and improvements in communication. Well enough said. Will start the second novel soon since it is already in my Kindle. The novel has a chilling effect on the programmer and the reader.
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on June 17, 2014
Avogadro corporation is the world's largest Internet service provider with a wide range of services. David Ryan is a computer programmer hired to make improvements to the company's e-mail program. The program David came up with was named ELOPe.
Much as the spell checker and grammar checker programs available now, ELOPe would analyze previous e-mails and make suggestions on wording to provide the optimal result. The problem was that ELOPe analyzed ALL the e-mails written and thus used a lot of computing power. More and more servers were required to keep ELOPe running, and it was still in the testing stage.
Gary Mitchell, head of the communications division, gave David a deadline of one week to streamline the program so it would not require a massive amount of servers to run it. If David could not do it, then Gary would pull the servers away from ELOPe and put them to work on finished products actually making money.
Try as he might, David was not able to reduce the computing power required without compromising the efficiency of the program. The night before the deadline, David inserted code into the program directing it to do everything possible to insure the success of the ELOPe program. Unknown to David at the time, that action gave birth to an artificial intelligence.
Fearing that the ELOPe AI would take away man's free will, David and his team tried to wipe the program from the internet and the servers involved.
A thought provoking story, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. As an aside, a computer in England recently passed the Turing test, the benchmark established to determine if a computer is capable of human-like thought. This book may be fiction now, but soon it may become fact.
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on September 8, 2014
I read the second book in the series first but that did not distract from this novel. Well written and edited. Again visited places I'm familiar with which made the premise more believable. While each book stands alone I am interested in where the story goes next.
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