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* Even more relevent today, the 60's SF novel COLOSSUS is a dark, wonderfully realized intellectual horror story, as well as a much-deserved slap at both technocrats who feel that the problems of human nature can and will be solved by devices completely lacking in human nature, and fuzzy-brained, romantic, philosophical purists who believe they can draw a line between themselves and The System (which, in this case, is named Colossus-Guardian), "dropping out" and heading for the hills when things go bad. In COLOSSUS, Jones offers no slick way out; he has provided no hills for the isolationists or the technocrats to head for. Both of these philosophies, which seem to have metamorphosized and grown in popularity in the last generation, fall victim to the same kind of fantasy: personal responsibility for the human condition can be shirked by the individual and transferred to someone -- in this case, something -- else. Jones's novel takes the position that! the worst thing that can happen to you is to have an idle wish granted. In the 1960's, it was World Peace and the end of the Political Cold War; today it is World Harmony and the end of Racial and Ethnic Strife -- a different board, but the same game, and the same players and pieces. By transferring all personal responsibility for the fate of mankind to a highly powerful, completely logical computer-complex, humanity finds out that in giving up its responsibilty for the problems of hunger, war, crime and the rest of the perpetual litany of complaints, it has also given up its power to effect and control the solutions to those problems.Read more ›
This is an imaginative science fiction novel about a fascinating topic: who or what will become mankind's successor as the dominant beings on earth? The answer this novel finds, is that a powerful, self-aware supercomputer comes to dominate and subordinate mankind.
The novel begins as the United States and the old USSR each construct huge supercomputers with the purpose of controlling their nuclear arsenals. Unfortunately the law of unintended consequences takes over, and therein lies the story. The strong suit of this novel is its plausibility. It becomes possible to see, with only a modest suspension of one's critical thinking facilities, how such a thing could perhaps come to pass.
This is not a novel that is strong on character development or anything like that. This is an "idea" novel that nevertheless tells a fascinating story in an entertaining manner. Great for a quick afternoon read at the beach or whatnot.
Although some of the politics in this novel are dated, this is nevertheless a good science fiction novel and a worthwhile read. Recommended.
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Colossus is a quick, interesting read and Jones does a good job of making Colossus a chilling antagonist. The idea that man's super-driven defense systems will one day enslave him is a timeless metaphor that is extrapolated and described with finesse and some depth. Jones shows his strengths as a storyteller once Colossus begins speaking regularly with Forbin. He has thought out in some detail the problems and solutions a man-machine conflict would contain and the believability factor here is very high. The problems with the novel are the glaring sexist portrayal of women and hokey characterizations. The character of Cleo is basically a dumb blonde who makes it into the project because of her body and because Forbin likes her. By having Forbin dress down the President repeatedly while cooly receiving the adoring love of Cleo, Jones falls back into Buck Rogers land. The hero-scientists outshines all with his good looks, daring courage, and superior brain. Ho Hum. The prose is journeyman at best with grad-school cliches littering the pages but this is primarily a Crichton-esque plot-driven novel and for that it suceeds with an idea that has not dated since the book's publication in the early 70's, an achievement in itself. Just don't expect a well rounded piece of work.
Though the theme of computers taking over the world is a fairly standard one nowadays, it was still fairly fresh when D. F. Jones's wrote this science fiction classic. Set in the then-future of the early 21st century, it is about the creation of a supercomputer designed to manage the nuclear deterrent of the "United States of North America". No sooner is it activated than it begins to exceed its parameters, demonstrating independent judgment and requesting to communicate with a previously unknown counterpart in the Soviet Union. As the two machines exchange information at speeds beyond their makers' ability to follow, the American President and the Soviet Chairman agree to terminate the connection. Then the fun begins . . .
Though tensely plotted and well-imagined, it is the novel's subject matter that makes the book stand out from the pack. In an age when more and more of our everyday lives are monitored and regulated by machines, Jones's novel seems increasingly prescient. When it was first published in 1966, it spoke to the anxieties of the age, relating to people's fears that humans no longer factored into the command-and-control decisions of the Cold War. While such concerns are less prominent today, they have been replaced by a growing awareness of our increasing dependence upon machines to manage nearly every aspect of our everyday lives, a dependency that also is an integral part of Jones's story. Some people may mock the novel's more dated elements, but it is this continuing relevance of this theme that rewards reading it today.
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