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Evolution's Darling Paperback – April 3, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this disturbing and powerful meditation on consciousness and individuality, Scott Westerfeld captures everything that is wonderful about pure science fiction, but does it at a cost of brutality to his characters. He uses technology to assess something important about human beings--in this case, what makes us sentient, and what part memory plays in our humanity.

Despite the ship captain's best efforts, his navigational computer achieves a Turing level, indicating sentience. When the machine intimately befriends his daughter, the captain tries to have it erased, only to find that his daughter is willing to betray him to preserve her symbiotic love.

Centuries later, the immortally bereft machine, now a being called Darling, searches the universe for meaning and tries not to remember the darkness of his past. When a human assassin on a mission to destroy an AI artist encounters Darling, they begin a relationship that is beyond intense, with a violent sexuality and a deep connection that ultimately calls into question their nature as separate entities.

Westerfeld, the author of Polymorph and Fine Prey, creates a difficult and ultimately despairing future for humans, but one of hope and potential for the artificial intelligences that inherit the mantle of evolution. Beauty, faith, and the power of love are the things that save Darling, if not the humans he remembers, from the maw of oblivion. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

In the context of this novel, "Evolution's Darling" is a phrase used by people who envy sentient AIs (Artificial Intuitions) "because they could evolve... within the span of a lifetime, while biologicals were trapped on that slow wheel of generations." The "Darling" of the title refers to a former starship mind, an AI whose increasingly intimate bond with the adolescent daughter of the ship's captain allowed his Turing Quotient to exceed 1.0. With a value above that level, an "artificial" is granted personhood and full human rights. After gaining a cyborg body and outliving his lover, Darling's unique abilities lead him to become an art dealer. After 200 years of traveling, Darling finally hopes to meet the reclusive sculptor Robert Vaddum, whose bizarre work has intrigued and obsessed Darling for decades. On the way to Malvir, Vaddum's world, Darling meets Mira, a woman whose personal history was stolen by the AIs and replaced with a career as an assassin. Sex with Darling triggers strange dreams that may be Mira's recovered memories, the key to unlocking her life before becoming a high-tech killer. But now Mira must finish her latest job: slaying the Maker, a being responsible for the heinous crime of copying an artificial's mind. Darling's search for Vaddum becomes entwined with Mira's pursuit of the Maker, but these stories also become so hopelessly entangled in a morass of out-of-place flashbacks and recovered memories that it's difficult to care whether anyone achieves his or her ultimate goal. While Westerfeld's setting and characters, clearly influenced by the work of Iain Banks, are intriguing, they're severely undermined by choppy action and weak plotting. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (April 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568581491
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568581491
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,444,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Dedman on January 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Evolution's Darling is one of the most interesting science fiction novels I've read in the past year.
Evolution's Darling is a 'bootstrap', an AI who has achieved sentience despite frequent downgrades by its last owner. Under the laws of the Expansion, any machine that reaches a Turing Quotient of 1.0 legally becomes a person, rather than legal property - and needing to replace the shipboard computer would wipe out a year's profits for Darling's owner, Isaah. Darling is also the tutor and companion of Isaah's fifteen-year-old daughter, Rathere, and after Isaah disconnects Darling's sensors, Rathere re-connects them to save her friend, who then becomes her lover. He buys himself a humanoid body, then he and Rathere leave Earth together.
Two centuries later, Darling has become one of the Expansion's most astute dealers in artworks, collecting originals and ideas and sex-related body modifications. When a new sculpture allegedly done by fellow bootstrap Vaddum comes onto the market, years after Vaddum's disappearance, Darling and many other dealers rush to see it. While some are prepared to murder their rivals to own the piece, Darling is more interested in its origin. Is Vaddum dead? Can robots actually die? Can intelligent software be copied, and if so, is the copy a forgery or the real thing?
Evolution's Darling contains some wonderful inventions: as well as the Turing Quotient as a solution to the ethical questions of owning intelligent machines, Westerfield gives us a wide range of very individualistic robots, from the fiercely competitive hyper-intelligent starships writing anonymous academic papers on passenger service when they're not hurling insults at each other ("Number-cruncher!" "Intuitionist!
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Format: Paperback
Evolution's Darling is Scott Westerfeld's third scifi novel. It's written with such poise and mastery that the far future in which it inhabits is clear and believable. If we don't quite understand this future, it's because it is already beyond our ken. The clock is ticking......
The prologue provides us with the book's mythology. Told like "The Tempest" - a father-daughter-lover triangle within a setting of sheer otherworldly beauty - the prologue catapults the narrative into a grandly conceived and richly imagined place and time.
The eponymous Darling is perfectly realized, an artificial being who is haunted and profoundly affected by love and loss. His development from multi-purpose AI to a sentient being marks the emergence of a truly new generation. The humans in Evolution's Darling are clearly a species at the beginning of irrelevance. Their lives are tawdry, desirous of excesses of greed, lust and power. In comparison, the AIs go about their lot with, at the very least, a knowing, witty irony, if not, more often, a deep, all-encompassing appreciation. A love for life. With respect.
Although Westerfeld imagines a world where humans have become stuck in an evolutionary cul-de-sac like the duckbilled platypus, it's world that we'd aspire to. A world where art is not merely another commodity but where it literally transforms souls. A world where a family (built from constructs) can live happily ever after. A world where we'd like to be. We just couldn't muster it.
A truly amazing, inspiring book, full of noise and passion, driven by a quiet inevitability that's quite heartbreakingly beautiful to experience.
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Format: Paperback
There are only a few voices in sci-fi who continuously stun everyone. At least me. Scott Westerfeld is one of those very few who keeps amazing, now with his third novel. Again he draws out a unique universe, pictures simple, yet great characters and unfolds a compelling, yet mystifyingly simple narrative.
Imagine a world in which evolution is measured by the progress of being 'sentient', no longer by being 'human'. Imagine a world in which artificial intelligence is no longer artificial at all and constructed intelligences can learn, and grow, and evolve and become recognised for the great minds that they are. Imagine one such mind, lost for love, living off an economy inflating the prize of originals, running into a lovely asassin who does not have all that much human in her any more.
If that appeals to you, dive into this world and let Scott's voice point out to you the power of the nature of an original.
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Format: Paperback
For books like Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves: A Novel I have found that the Amazon user reviews were accurate. In the case of Scott Westerfeld's Evolutons Darling, I have found the reviews less helpful. Perhaps because one of the central themes of Evolution's Darling is sex and sex tends to make people uncomfortable.

The first book I read by Scott Westerfeld was The Risen Empire (Succession), which I liked a great deal. I then read the sequel, The Killing of Worlds: Book Two of Succession, which I thought was good too. After reading these books I looked around for other Scott Westerfeld books.

Most of Scott Westerfeld's books are targeted at the "young adult" market, which means that the books are targeted to readers around the ages of 12 to 16. As far as I can tell, the Risen Empire books and Evolution's Darling are the only books that Scott Westerfeld has written for adults. The Risen Empire books are (at the time of this writing) in print, but Evolution's Darling is out of print. Evolution's Darling was originally published by a press named Four Walls Eight Windows, which was then bought by Avolon Group which then was bought by (or became) Perseus Books. In all the roil of publishing companies, Evolution's Darling has become lost to readers. The copy that I read I got through inter-library loan. The only other copies available are through the rare book market.
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