Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT SERENGETI by @Rockwell_JB #SciFi Artificial Intelligence

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Serengeti by JB Rockwell

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This book is not your usual sci-fi outing. For those who were anticipating something hard-core, it will disappoint. For me, the humanity of the main character (an Artificial Intelligence or AI) and her two sidekick robots were the compelling draw.

The Meridian Alliance battle fleet is tasked with finding and destroying the ship of the Dark Star Revolution, which have been attacking Alliance members and with whom they have had a decades-long war. The ships constituting the Meridian Alliance fleet are varied, from the humongous and stubborn battle group commander Brutus to Serengeti, the Valkyrie-class warship and her sisters, who are equipped with the latest iteration and most highly developed AI. The star ships themselves are the bodies of these AIs, but ships still have a human crew, ostensibly for their ability to solve problems intuitively. It is clear from the outset that the human crews are subservient to the AIs, and while some captains have difficulty accepting their roles, Hendrickson, Serengeti’s captain, has a solid working relationship with her. Serengeti admires many of Hendrickson’s qualities, which she comes to emulate.

Underestimating the strength of the Dark Star fleet, the Meridian Alliance ships are decimated and the decision is made by Central Control to withdraw. As the ships leave one by one via hyperspace jumps, a booby-trapped vessel explodes near Serengeti just as she makes her jump, and she is forced to drop out of hyperspace in an unknown and empty location – her body wrecked and most of her crew dead. She herds the remaining crew, including Captain Hendrickson, into an escape pod, where they are cryogenically frozen so they can be slung into space. The escape pod is unfortunately stuck within the ship, and over the next decades, we follow Serengeti as she and TIG-442, a worker robot whose body she can inhabit, work to free the pod and save her humans. Confounding her efforts are the loss of the ship’s energy cells and the appearance of a ship reclaiming space junk, with the threat to take her apart.

The character of Serengeti is all too human, as her devotion to the remaining crew and her robot sidekick demonstrate and the relationships evolve. That is what drew me to the book. There are some drawbacks: TIG creates a mate, then grows a family with the addition of a third smaller version of itself – this and perhaps their mannerisms are a bit too cute. The initial battle sequence continued too long, frustrating me (as well as Serengeti) and the repeated descriptions of the wreckage of Serengeti became a little monotonous. However, the concept of the book and the good storytelling kept me reading and the drawbacks are minor compared to my reading enjoyment!

I think there are many readers, both sci-fi fans and not, who will like this book!

Book Description

It was supposed to be an easy job: find the Dark Star Revolution Starships, destroy them, and go home. But a booby-trapped vessel decimates the Meridian Alliance fleet, leaving Serengeti-a Valkyrie class warship with a sentient AI brain-on her own; wrecked and abandoned in an empty expanse of space. On the edge of total failure, Serengeti thinks only of her crew. She herds the survivors into a lifeboat, intending to sling them into space. But the escape pod sticks in her belly, locking the cryogenically frozen crew inside. Then a scavenger ship arrives to pick Serengeti’s bones clean. Her engines dead, her guns long silenced, Serengeti and her last two robots must find a way to fight the scavengers off and save the crew trapped inside her.

About the author

J.B. Rockwell

J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she’s (a) hard headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indiana Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn’t quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe…

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT SERENGETI by @Rockwell_JB #SciFi #WeekendBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Lilyn, she blogs at http://www.scifiandscary.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Lilyn has been reading Serengeti by JB Rockwell

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So, I never thought I’d read a story where the whole first third of it was one massive battle, and walk away saying I liked it. I have a short attention span, so protracted scenes tend to make me wander off. However, the action in J.B. Rockwell’s Serengeti was interesting enough that it kept my attention glued to it. I read it while taking a bubble bath, whilst walking through the house, etc. And when things calmed down (and they do calm way down), I happily kept reading it.

Serengeti is one part pulse-pounding action, two parts Wall-E 2. And, surprisingly, the two completely different types of books work really well together. The first third allows you to garner respect for the AI controlling the ship Serengeti, and to begin thinking of her as a ‘person’. As Serengeti, herself. A being, not a ship. That’s a crucial step to being able to feel for her as the other two-thirds happen.  And you do feel for Serengeti. J.B. Rockwell does a fantastic job of showcasing the AI’s humanity even as she’s doing things that no human could do. The feelings of isolation, and sorrow tug at you again and again. But her sheer determination and loyalty to her crew keep you rooting for her.

There were problems with the book, though. One of the biggest problems I had with Serengeti is that I had trouble believing the AI was that human. It had its moments where it seemed more like an unwitting anthromorphosism than actually believable evolution. That might partially be my mind’s unwillingness to believe that the development of AI can progress that far. However, J.B. Rockwell inserts enough coldly logical thoughts/acts that she mostly keeps pulling it back from being too much for too long. Mostly. There’s a character introduced at one point in the later half of the story that I just cannot buy. It’s a little too much.

It’s hard to review the book as a whole because of how very different the sections are. I will say that J.B. Rockwell wrote one of the best space battles I’ve read in a long time. It was clearly written, easy to visualize, and full of enough deaths and explosions to make my heart go pitter-pat. It’s a lovely book to curl up with, as it gets you revved up and then slowly pulls your emotions back down. Serengeti is one of those books you’ll end up re-reading, just to see if she can invoke the hope and melancholy in you all over again. 

Book Description

It was supposed to be an easy job: find the Dark Star Revolution Starships, destroy them, and go home. But a booby-trapped vessel decimates the Meridian Alliance fleet, leaving Serengeti-a Valkyrie class warship with a sentient AI brain-on her own; wrecked and abandoned in an empty expanse of space. On the edge of total failure, Serengeti thinks only of her crew. She herds the survivors into a lifeboat, intending to sling them into space. But the escape pod sticks in her belly, locking the cryogenically frozen crew inside. Then a scavenger ship arrives to pick Serengeti’s bones clean. Her engines dead, her guns long silenced, Serengeti and her last two robots must find a way to fight the scavengers off and save the crew trapped inside her.

About the author

J.B. Rockwell

J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she’s (a) hard headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indiana Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn’t quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe…

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