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)
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