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Recursion Mass Market Paperback – August 29, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0553589283 ISBN-10: 0553589288

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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: 7 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,168,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

"Recursion" is very well written, very fast-paced and thought-provoking, as are the follow-up books in the series.
Scott Reeves
Eva was just so well done, a true growth in character from depressed suicidal robot to the one who gives advice to mankind's rulers.
Avid Reader
The freshman novel of Tony Ballantyne is a cheesy mixture of bland dialogue, unrefined plot points and boring characters.
2theD

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By H. Grove (errantdreams) TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 26, 2007
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Cook on November 20, 2006
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 2, 2008
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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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brian Gordon on January 14, 2011
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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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By 2theD on March 15, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The freshman novel of Tony Ballantyne is a cheesy mixture of bland dialogue, unrefined plot points and boring characters. Where do I begin? Let's start with his writing style before we tear the book apart. First, the book needs a serious editor because there were so many points of annoyance I nearly threw the book at the wall. How many times can the cast SHIVER in 406 pages? Oh, more than 15 times, along with shivering water once. Word repetition doesn't stop there. For some reason, the author finds is necessary to repeat Herb's name (one of the three main characters) over and over again instead of using the 2nd person pronoun `he.' It seems as if every paragraph has Herb's name at least four times. Herb is a terribly lame character anyway; he's so lame he shouldn't even have been GIVEN a name! On page 6 I laughed out loud at the cheesiness on the page: "Herb was different. He had known it since he was a child." In another paragraph, Herb narrates how rich his father is, and mentions so three times in only a few lines... then says it again with the first sentence of the very next paragraph. Herb's social status played no part in the plot, so why even mention it? Either sometime is wrong with the character or just the author himself?

Secondly, I should have known the book was going to be a failure when I read the words at the top of the back cover: "In a world of manipulated reality, what does it truly mean to be human?" The plot of "what does it mean to be human" has been run into the ground so many different ways and hardly any of them live up to the task of tackling that question! Bingo! Recursion fails miserably at the attempt to answer this ultimate question.

Eva is the third character in the limelight cast and whose introductory chapter is actually quite enticing.
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