Today’s team review is from Barb
Barb Blogs here https://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Beyond The Speed Limit by Anton Eine.
“If you’re reading this, I’m either dead or behind bars.”
In the prequel to his Programagic Cycle, Author Anton Eine hooked me with that great first line. My review of that intro applies to Beyond The Speed Limit, the first book in his new series, which introduces us to a disturbingly familiar magic world.
These days, instead of a wave a wand all you have to say is, “Let there be light,” and the interface spell running your house or flying chariot will carry out your every command. They can cook you dinner using standard or customized recipes, order the shopping, clean the house, turn on the music or even transmit a live or recorded image on your crystal ball.
At least, it’s familiar to any of us who have wandered the aisles of Fry’s or Best Buy, tried to set up our own router, or attempted to understand anything a twelve-year-old child tells us. Or to anyone like me with a basement full of obsolete electronic relics of bygone days, and completely useless knowledge of forgotten programming languages like Basic. (VCR/Walkman/DOS anyone?)
Beyond The Speed Limit works on several levels. First, of course, it uses the technology rules we accept but for the most part don’t understand any more than if they were in truth magic. It’s as if the Apple Store had a Genius Bar in Diagon Alley. This world might be magic-powered, but it follows rules just as strict as the physics we know in our own. A magic wand dropped in water in Sanjar’s world is just as dead as a water-drenched cellphone here. Spells written in old languages won’t power a modern magic wand any more than DOS will run your iPhone.
Second is the tongue-in-cheek humor of the references to things in the magic universe that directly mimic familiar elements in our own. (Book of Faces, anyone?)
Third is the plot, a classic SciFi thriller with plenty of chase scenes, epic battles, and universe-high stakes, with a reluctant hero, Magister Sajar Randhar, trying to solve the murder of his friend.
Another element is The Singularity, which (for SciFi fans at least) refers to the moment that an artificial intelligence (AI) achieves self-awareness. Sajar’s creation, an experimental AI hologram he calls Spirit, somehow achieves this in the prequel. Now she’s Sanjar’s secret companion, a being whose processing power and speed far exceed those of humans, but who lacks understanding of the complex rituals that make up humanity, or the soul.
Her processing power was nothing short of incredible. However, she lacked the intuition to immediately spot unusual or important bits of data. Her analytic algorithms could miss things that might seem obvious to us or require more time to process them. I had provided her with something akin to a subconscious, and it was a very powerful source of her insights but an artificial soul nevertheless functions in ways that are different to us.
As the aging technomage Sanjar tries to solve his friend’s murder, Spirit is his secret weapon. But the AI construct is also a self-aware entity, applying her vast computing resources to develop her sense of identity into a female and somehow endowing that self with gender, and emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy, and even love.
To uncover and try to combat a deadly conspiracy that threatens their society, Sanjar and his secret companion take part in a deadly sport in which drivers of magically-enhanced racing vehicles race in a course full of high-speed danger and magic snares.
I thought the endless puns on things and locations in our world (God bless Murica and the Divided Kingdom!) were a little over the top. But I loved ultimate character development as Spirit invents herself while her supposed creator, Sanjar, looks on bemused. I enjoyed this update to the classic SciFi debate about whether a constructed being can become self-aware and what they might look like. If Spirit is clearly capable of computing vast amounts nearly instantaneously, what is to keep her from attempting to wrest control from her human creators? And of course, does her perception of these inequalities constitute a soul?
If you love the classic science fiction of Clarke and Asimov, the high-speed action of a James Bond thriller, or even just the speed and coordination of online gaming, I think you’ll appreciate the combination that is the official first book of Anton Eine’s Programagic Cycle, Beyond The Speed Limit.
Welcome to an alternative world of wonder, where magic and technology are inseparably entwined. A place where sorcerer programmers code spells and weave them into items and artefacts to imbue them with special and specific properties.
Magister Sajar Randhar, a seasoned expert in magic security, investigates crimes together with his greatest and most ingenious creation – Spirit, the world’s first and only artificial spirit. Magister keeps her existence a secret to protect her from the dangers posed by the magical world’s politicians, secret services, criminals and corporations. Or perhaps, to protect the magical world from her?
Programagic, a detective techno-fantasy series by Anton Eine is an explosive mix of science fiction, fantasy and magical realism, seasoned with a healthy pinch of exotic dark humor.
This collection includes the first two stories of the series – a short novella Behind the Fire Wall and a full-length novel Beyond the Speed Limit.