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Society of the Mind: A Cyberthriller Hardcover – May, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his new techno-thriller, the author of Arc Light transports readers to an island in the near future where robots build robots and a virtual reality chamber includes an "exoskeleton" suit to allow you to feel simulated heat and cold, flowers and rocks. Harvard psychology professor Laura Aldrich is summoned to the estate of eccentric billionaire Joseph Gray. Her task is to diagnose possible mental illness in his supercomputer, which, like Gray's robots, has been constructed from neural networks and patiently taught physical and mental skills. Is Gray a mad genius bent on ruling (or destroying) the world? Or will he advance civilization beyond our wildest dreams? While preparing to divert a doomsday asteroid plummeting toward Earth, the humans in Harry's novel must cope with insurgent robots and face the consequences of Gray's brilliance. Laura and her laptop computer explore the island, facing danger from the dense jungle and attacks by rogue robots as she (and we) are introduced to artificial intelligence, robotics computer viruses and virtual reality. The plot, while primarily a vehicle to explicate technological advances, is nevertheless compelling. Like Crichton and H.G. Wells, Harry writes stories just this side of science fiction that entertain roundly while they explore questions of scientific and social import. $60,000 ad/promo; simultaneous HarperAudio release; author tour; foreign rights sold to the U.K., Japan, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands; U.K., translation, dramatic rights: Jay Garon.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Harry's second novel (Arc Light, S. & S., 1994) is an early entry into the newest subgenre of cyberthrillers. Reclusive genius Joseph Gray offers Harvard psychology professor Laura Aldrich one million dollars for a week's worth of work. Her job? To psychoanalyze Gina, an unhappy computer with the ability to learn from her experiences. Aldrich soon discovers that Gina is being influenced by a mysterious computer with a mind of its own. Murders by robots, the growing (and predictable) love between Aldrich and Gray, and a threat to the continued existence of the planet round out the plot of this frequently interesting novel. Readers will find much to contemplate here: the definition of "human," the role of technology in our increasingly wired lives, the limits of virtual reality, and our ability to share the planet with a nonhuman, sentient species. However, the pedestrian writing and one-dimensional human characters exacerbate the fact that the book could have used some heavy editing to tighten the plot and build the suspense. For large collections.
-?Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 503 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060176946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060176945
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #537,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I read until three that morning, having started at midnight.
jarchivist
The plot was excellent, but the main focus of the book tended to be on the inventions and how they would affect the human race.
Joshua Walcher
I enjoyed this book more than anything I have read this decade.
neilinmo@ninenet.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "benreed" on November 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was awed by Harry's brilliant Arc Light, especially parts about the fusing of a nuclear weapon, as well as the prosecution and aftermath of a nuclear strike. When I saw he had written a cyberthriller, I knew I had to give it a try. I like to read fiction slowly and absorb the nuances of the plot and descriptive writing. So to say I was pleased with Society of the Mind would be a gross understatement. It was superb in every way I can write. Immediately after finishing this book, I sought and found Harry's latest offering -- Protect and Defend. In the early goings it has also grabbed my rapt attention. Again, Society of the Mind won't disappoint you and ably fills the void between Tom Clancy's fiction novels. I suggest reading all three of Harry's novels. I am also hoping for a sequel to Society since there is so much more that can be told about the Model Eight robots, the projected Nines, the mysterious late launch of three rockets, the future of HD-TV, and many more not-so-futuristic subplots. And if you're into "casting" books as you read them, Harry had to have had Jody Foster (Contact) and Alec Baldwin (Hunt for Red October) in mind.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By neilinmo@ninenet.com on August 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a brilliant engineer named John Galt rebels against the philosophical cancers of the times and proceeds to bring the engines of the Industrial age (1950's) to a halt. Before most of the world even know who John Galt is, the phrase "Who is John Galt?" has come to be the universal world-weary response to the moral contradictions of a mindless, altruistic culture. John Galt is Ayn Rand's romanticized symbol of the future she hoped to see.
The world has changed much since the book was written. The Industrial Age has yielded to the Information Age. The notion of altruism as a dominant philosophical force seems quaint. One wonders what John Galt would be like in today's age of computers, cyberspace and artificial intelligence.
We find the answer in the character of Joseph Gray in Society of the Mind.
Like Ayn Rand's fiction, Society of the Mind brings to life a swashbuckling blend of plot, characters and ideas. Like Rand's novels, Society of the Mind is likely to evoke disparate responses from readers. While the book is unequivocally a cyberthriller (whereas Atlas Shrugged was a philosophical treatise wrapped in a fine fictional plot), Society of the Mind is alive with philosophical and technological intelligence which may be wasted on some readers.
There are differences between John Galt and Joseph Gray. For one, Galt is an atheist; Gray believes in God, but views him as an equal. Galt gives long and profound philosophical lectures. Gray's observations are kept short so as not to disrupt the pace of the plot. He is no philosopher, but he is a thinker and man of action.
Author Eric L.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is a surprisingly complex mixture of engrossing story telling and cautionary speculation about the future of computing and artificial intelligence. In structure, the book is almost two distinct stories which become interlocked in the complex, and perhaps too dizzingly quantum leaps of the conclusion. Nevertheless, the characters are human and interesing and the science is plausible and well worth thinking about.
This is one of those books that will have you engrossed almost from the first and then leave you thinking about its implications long after you have put it down. A very worthwhile reading experience.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brian Robinson on December 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like another reader I picked this one up in the bargain bin because it seemed interesting based on the inside cover. I actually enjoyed the book quite a bit; as a computer scientist I was surprised how few mistakes Harry made in his descriptions of modern and near future computing. There were a few errors, usually in terms of scale, like some of the things depicted in the book would take a lot more computing power than he says they have. Overall, though, I would say it's the best description of current technology by a layman I've read.
As to the story, it mostly consisted of the main character going from place to place and learning about new technology. The constant revelations kept me interested, but by the end things had been built up so much that I was disappointed with the story's climax. I also felt the ending was a bit too formulaic for an otherwise different book.
Overall, it's a fun book and one that will probably open your eyes if you don't follow the major developments in technology. If you can get it for a buck or two in the bargain bin I would reccomend giving it a try.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Walcher on February 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Eric L. Harry is an engaging author who captured my imagination and attention with this book! He has written a real page-turner with this one. He showed a lot of good imagination by writing a lot about new inventions that are within our grasp, and the only thing that I thought was a little unrealistic was the VR room with walls that moved in to conform to your body.
The plot was excellent, but the main focus of the book tended to be on the inventions and how they would affect the human race. His camaraderie between characters was excellent and very believable. I would tell anyone that's looking for a good cyberthriller to go pick this one up!!!
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