It’s a mystery

I normally don’t seek out mystery novels to read. I am not sure why because the few I have read in the last few years have been very good. In my youth I read some Isaac Asimov mysteries. Most of his Robot stories are mini-mysteries or puzzles. Every so often I’d pick up a mystery pulp magazine at a yard sale. If it was inexpensive, I’d probably read it. We didn’t have a TV for much of my childhood and reading was my main form of entertainment. As a kid, I didn’t have much of a choice. Now that I have a choice and even though I have latched onto Science Fiction as my main reading diet, I will still read just about anything.

A few years ago Doris introduced me to a mystery book that had a Science Fiction theme. Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb. It was a blast. Very recently she introduced me to another author. Donna Andrews has a series that has an Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the main character. I started reading the first book with a very skeptical attitude. I am a computer programmer and it has been my experience that mainstream entertainment media almost never depict computers correctly. They are either magical boxes that any idiot can use to do just about anything in a few keystrokes and a mouse click, or they are unfathomable enigmas that only strange looking computer nerds can coax into revealing the secrets of a standard dot txt file. Reality is in the middle and is frankly very fascinating–well at least to me. And that is where Donna Andrews’ stories fall. Smack dab in the middle of “this could be real”. She researched. She dedicated the books to her computer expert friends who helped her understand what she needed to know to create a believable character in Turing Hopper, a character that just happens to be an AI. The only enigma in her stories is just how this expert system crossed the line from software program to person. Which is fine with me because I don’t how humans crossed that line either. The only thing magical about her stories is the fun romp she provides. I devoured three of her novels faster than I normally read a single novel.

I ask you, if a mystery writer can do her homework and “get” computers well enough to depict them properly, then why can’t big budget “Sci-Fi” movies and TV shows writers do the same?

It’s a mystery.


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