Fiction Reviews


Emergence

(2001) Ray Hammond, Pan, 6.99, pbk, 597pp, ISBN 0-333-90493-1

Thomas Tye is the richest man in the World, head of the global Tye Corporation, and as famous as any rock star. And he is developing incredibly powerful new technologies including, it is claimed, the ability to engineer the weather. He has founded his own nation on Hope Island, recognised by the international community, and the world's economy depends on the stability of Tye Corp. But for some this is too much power for any one man to have, and the UN in particular fear that Tye has hi-jacked the future. Elsewhere systems failures are plaguing the world's data networks and essential systems are crashing frequently and people are dying as a result. Could this be related to Tye Corp's research programme to produce an AI?

Hammond is either a very erudite man, or he has great dictionaries and thesauruses, and while it is often gratifying to read obscure words, I'm not sure it will help his sales much. And while his novel is detailed, carefully written, and full of believeable characters, he singularly fails to make much of his core material. Which is to say that, no matter how lovingly portrayed, the vast majority of his high-tech world is pretty old hat to most SF readers, as is the "one man shouldn't be too powerful" theme, and the only real interest here is the emergent AI with which he does almost nothing. In fact the entire ending of this book comes across as very rushed and is quite unsatisfying. Tye, while clearly unscrupulous, hardly makes for an out-and-out villain since, while his primary motivation appears to be to gather more wealth, and while he keeps his anti-ageing technology to himself and a favoured few, most of the work Tye Corp does is very beneficial to humankind and the planet (much is made of his environmental concerns). Hammond's main failure here (unless he was aiming for some moral ambiguity) is that Tye is completely unconvincing as a threat to the global economy, and therefore the actions of the UN seem to be the panicked reactions of an envious elite trying to protect their own status. There are also lots of little plot holes throughout the novel, where characters jump to unsupportable conclusions with little thought or justification.

I can't really recommend this novel as SF, though the "future-thriller" crowd might enjoy it. While there's no doubting the depth of Hammond's research, his execution of a convincing plot leaves much to be desired. Buy this at your own risk.

Tony Chester


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