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The Turing Option (Questar Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Minsky ( The Society of the Mind ), one of the foremost authorities on artificial intelligence research, has many interesting ideas about the potential and pitfalls of the quest for a truly free-thinking machine, and some of them come through in this murky, creaky thriller, written with veteran science fiction author Harrison ( Return to Eden ). Brian Delany, a brilliant computer scientist at top-secret Megalobe labs, is on the brink of developing a true machine intelligence when industrial pirates penetrate security and steal his research, gravely wounding him in the process. Though a bullet has destroyed parts of his brain, the technology he created offers hope: neurosurgeon Erin Snaresbrook uses microsurgical robots and a superpowerful computer to restore Brian to consciousness. Now he races against time to re-create his research before the thieves can develop it for the marketplace, and to find out who was behind the theft before they can finish him off. The stale, contrived plot and unlikely characters serve only as a framework for the authors' exposition of various issues surrounding AI. Readers interested in a lecture enlivened by a plot line should find this entertaining; those seeking the pleasures of fiction (science or otherwise) should look elsewhere.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Clich‚d, melodramatic, and thuddingly plotted--but, still, this novel by a Grand Old Man of sf and the world's leading expert on artificial intelligence contains some of the best extrapolation on the nature and creation of AI ever offered in fiction. In 2023, Brian Delaney, under contract to Megalobe, has just achieved a breakthrough in AI when someone engineers the theft of his research and murders all involved. Brian alone survives, but a bullet has destroyed much of his brain. Using Brian's own research, neurosurgeon Erin Snaresbrook grafts an advanced computer into his brain, reintegrating neural pathways, allowing access to memories to the age of 14. Brian learns to interface with the CPU, and downloaded databases become part of his memory. While the army keeps him a virtual prisoner for security and searches for the perps, the new, improved Brian creates a new, improved AI, named Sven. Meanwhile, a criminological AI named Dick Tracy begins to uncover clues to the raid and, once integrated with Sven, sports a new product--a robot gardener--that's programmed with Brian's AI code. Brian finds a clue to his would-be murderer's whereabouts in the programming and engineers his and Sven's escape. Travelling to his native Ireland, Brian then discovers that he can interface directly with Sven. Having found the criminal mastermind, he reveals Sven's existence to the world--and goes back to work a free man. While the authors offer a difficult and realistic resolution- -Brian's machine/mind interface makes him progressively less human- -they also remind us that it's the future with lines like: ``Nostalgia music played quietly in the background, ancient classics by the antique old-timers U2.'' -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Questar Science Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 409 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446364967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446364966
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,319,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R VINE VOICE on April 21, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Harrison's a pretty good SF writer and Minsky is a leader in AI, so this seemed a good bet. Not so. The writing is wooden, mechanical and impersonal. All of the characters talk the same and we have to rely on the authors to tell us what each of them is like. Which often comes as a surprise. 15 years is a long time for any book that centers on computer technology, so one wouldn't expect this to have aged well. But consider: Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is from 1962, this from 1992. Heinlein's book is fresh and thought provoking, this one is just boring. The computer ideas aren't really very interesting and, really, Minsky should have known better. So how can you have the right ingredients and have such a lousy result? I got this used and very cheap. It's still a waste of time. Alas.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Milind S. Pandit on January 8, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the worst book I have read in a long time. It seems primarilya conduit for the authors' opinions and theories, masked as a hi-techindustrial espionage mystery. The characters seem conceived by adolescents. They are consistently unlikeable, uninteresting, and unchanging, serving primarily to voice arguments that Minsky has only slightly more completely addressed in his previous book, The Society of Mind. The inane and boring plot shows a glimmer of promise at the very end for two reasons: One is a betrayal that is unexpected only because it appears in this otherwise flat book. The other is a one-page encounter with the only character who is even mildly interesting.
The pointed descriptions of everyday use of technology now being researched at the MIT Media Lab is distracting. The authors use grammar that is adulterated by the frequent, jarring, annoying omission of the subjects of sentences, both in the narrative as well as human and robot dialogs. This type of writing has the pretense of revolutionary style, while really exposing a complete lack of expressiveness.
If you want to know Minsky's theories about AI as well as his opinions on a wide range of subjects, you will find The Society of Mind far more thought-provoking and interesting than this book. If you want a simply but clearly articulated vision of the future as suggested by the work at MIT's Media Lab, read Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital. If you want entertaining and surprising science fiction about robots, read Isaac Asimov's short stories. Read them by the light of a fire, and fuel it with The Turing Option. END
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Hinde on May 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As far as I know this novel is the only collaboration between Harry Harrison and Marvin Minsky. And given the quality of this book I find that truly sad. Harrison is of course one of the most prolific writers in the field of Science fiction and Minsky is a scientist with MIT, working in the area of A.I., who is more used to writing scientific articles than fiction. The two together bring a great story to life in an extremely believable way.
The "Turing Option" is set in the near future and concentrates on the experiences of a brilliant scientist who has just suffered a major brain trauma. His own cybernetic researches help doctors to bring him back to life and allow him to pursue his murderers. This pursuit leads him back to his research into artificial intelligence which it seems was the motivation behind the first attack.
The plot and story telling, whilst top notch, are not what prompted me to include the book on this page. No, it was the A.I. or M.I. (Machine Intelligence), that I became fascinated with. As far as I am concerned, the concept of a robotic entity has never been explored so well as in this novel. (yes I have read all of Asimov's robot stories). If you are at all interested in this area of science, then this book must be read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By on January 21, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked this one up at a second hand book shop -- Harry Harrison and Marvin Minsky? Wow, how could I go wrong!
Unfortunately, the ideas are not backed up by very solid storywriting here. Very little characterization is used, and the interaction comes across as somewhat dull and empty. None of the characters seem much to act realistically to what happens to them, except possibly Shelly, and Brian's personality never seems consistent.
As for the ideas, most are predictable and very straightforward extrapolations. The mecahnics of the AI is interesting, but comes across at times almost as textbook lecture, and many of the other more interesting ideas are left undeveloped.
Well folks, this is just my comments. Personally, I was disappointed somewhat by the book, but didn't consider it a collossal waste, either.
Your Mileage May Vary
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Linquel on January 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I own this book. If you open the cover and look inside it says "Christmas 1992. You better read this so I can borrow it." Thirteen years later I took this book off my shelf, dusted it off, and read it. All I can say is, I didn't wait long enough. This book could have been pretty good. I kept expecting a twist or surprise that never happened. It just kind of plodded along and then ended. Granted, technology has been chugging along so maybe some of it felt a little dated. But the characters just didn't engage me at all. I even enjoyed Prey more than this book (I think I even reviewed it here at Amazon) and that says a lot. I guess I'll put this back on my shelf with the other hardcovers. Or better yet, I'll mail it to my friend and force him to keep his promise and read it. Why should I suffer alone?
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