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Recursion

3.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0553589283
ISBN-10: 0553589288
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After seeding a desolate world with the latest in twenty-third-century terraforming technology, entrepreneur Herb Kirkham returns to find his self-replicating machinery running riot over the planet, and an agent from the all-seeing Environmental Agency waiting to dole out punishment. Fortunately, Herb's skills are attractive enough to trade ignominious exile for participation in a deadly mission to thwart a swarming brigade of apparently alien spacecraft that threatens to envelop Earth. A trio of interwoven story lines follows Herb's misadventures in alien space while teamed with an agent who may not be human himself, the efforts of another entrepreneur a hundred years earlier to oversee human development of artificial intelligence (AI), and the fate of a mental patient in 2051 who hears mysterious voices. All three plotlines concern the rise of an AI-based life-form that may or may not have humanity's best interests at heart. Overflowing with provocative ideas, Ballantyne's debut displays enviable mastery of both suspenseful storytelling and technological extrapolation. Mark him as a writer of considerable promise. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

TONY BALLANTYNE grew up in County Durham in the North East of England. He studied Math at Manchester University before moving to London for ten years where he taught first Math and then later IT. He now lives in Oldham with his wife and two children. His hobbies include playing boogie piano, walking and cycling.

Tony's short fiction has appeared in The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines, and in the anthology Constellations edited by Peter Crowther.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553589288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553589283
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,039,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Against the backdrop of today's world, in which governments become ever more intrusive into our daily lives and computer-based observation of our actions runs rampant, Ballantyne's vision of the future definitely hits home. Yet "Recursion" is hardly a ham-handed allegory; it has relevance to today's issues yet tells its own story. Nor do its characters face easy choices; it's often hard to tell what the "right" path to take is, and Eva, Constantine and Herb, much like real people, often have to cross their fingers and pray they've made the right choices.

The plot is intricate and delicately woven across three time periods. Setting a story in multiple time periods is extremely tricky, and risks causing those stories set in older times to feel irrelevant or unnecessary. Neither is the case here; Ballantyne does an extraordinary job of making each story important, revelatory, and fascinating, as well as necessary to understanding the other characters and events in the book.

The writing is lean and precise; most of the characters (particularly Eva, Constantine, and the Watcher) are fascinating and their stories amazing. I loved unraveling the events of this book. It walked a good line between explaining enough that the reader could keep up, yet not so much that it felt dumbed-down.

My only problem with this book is the third story. The story itself is quite interesting, but the characters of Herb and Robert (Herb's government-provided companion) are both a bit flat, particularly early on. Herb is one of the least-developed of the book's major characters, which is a bit odd since he's billed as its main character. Constantine and Eva were interesting enough to largely make up for that, but it is an unfortunate flaw in an otherwise amazing book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked up this paperback knowing nothing about the book (or author for that matter). The synopsis looked interesting.

I wasn't expecting too much, but was happily surprised to find the book very engaging and well thought-out. It was an excellent read that delves into AI (in a sci-fi kind of way) and implications of self-replicating machinery. I've recommended it to several friends and they've enjoyed it as well.

I'm looking forward to more sci-fi from Mr. Ballantyne.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ballantyne took some basic ideas that have been explored before, and twisted them together in an interesting way. Unfortunately, he let the interlinked threads of the story control the presentation, and didn't invest enough in the characters or in freshening the basic ideas. While this was promising, it's not enough to make me pick up his next book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The writing was so cheesy I grimaced again and again. Herb had about the intelligence of a cow, which conveniently allowed Johnston to explain the world to the reader in a manner that reminded me of the famous column "If all stories were written like science fiction stories." The ending was unconvincing and bizarre.

Probably the lamest part of the book is the implausible von Neumann machines which are the basis of essentially the entire plot. Apparently these little guys can build duplicates of themselves out of -anything-, including:

* Water
* The recently-molten iron core of a rocky planet
* Duplicates of themselves

Not only that, but after converting every gram of mass on a planet while avoiding melting, they can overcome the gravitational binding energy of the entire planet and form themselves into a long spear for attacking enemies. Note that wikipedia says that for an Earth-sized planet that's 37.5 megajoules per kilogram of mass. Pretty good for a bunch of little model robots with spider legs.

And of course (why not?) even spaceships can reproduce by mitosis. Somehow the carpet reproduces into two carpets half as thin. The whole ship can split this way and reassemble itself completely in minutes. When Herb opens a container of coffee in one of the split ships, it's half full. I laughed out loud.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This story was good, but could have been fantastic. The characters were well drawn out in the beginning, but the story seems to drag a bit in the middle and the author seems to magically throw solutions in when the characters are in a situation they can't get out of. Outside of a locked door with no way of getting in? Surprise! One of the characters suddenly has a key in his pocket that hasn't been mentioned previously... This didn't actually happen in the book, but it's just an example of what I mean, it's kind of like the "it was all just a dream" sort of thing. I don't care for that type of writing... If characters have obstacles to face the reader should be taken along on their journey to pass that obstacle. We should be a part of the learning experience being faced. Magic solutions (unless the story is built around magic) seem to be a cop-out to me.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lots of interesting ideas (self-replicating Von Neumann machines, artificial intelligences, psychotropic drugs creating multiple personalities) but the writing was uneven and I never fully cared about the characters - I kept reading more to see how the author explored his ideas.
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