1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Classic!, April 29 2006
It deals with the problem of what consciousness is, how it can be possibly created artificially, how its awakening can be deliberately achieved, and how dangerous this very act could be. In the context of the story of Voidship Earthling, a spaceship and her crew destined for a planet orbiting Tau Ceti to colonize it for human life, the book muses over the possibility of merging of human and computer consciousness. It brings in a lot of philosophy (and sometimes a bit tiring mathematical speculations) to explore questions of destiny, free will, and the relationship between religion and society, among other subjects.
The classic Herbert style shines through: very explicit separation of words and deeds from those thoughts that generate them; multiple levels of communication and meta communication; the amazing vision of the emergence of a new consciousness. All these are reappearing themes in his books: the transformation of Paul Atreides into Muad'Dib, the worm-man-god whose consciousness reaches back millennia trough his ancestors' memories and forward into the remote future through chains of possibilities shows a rather similar metamorphosis in the Dune series.
There is, however, one sentence, that I distinctly remember from the whole book (a mere 190 pages): "Isn't a man just a machine's way of making another machine?" An interesting twist of thought, a vague reflection on an old philosophical model (Plato's Allegory of the Cave in The Republic) on us not being able to perceive the world's true reality, our true nature and our own reason for existence.
Also notable: "The thing about computers-it's like training a dog. You have to be smarter than the dog. If you make a computer smarter than you are, that has to be accident, synergy, or divine intervention."
I am now looking forward to reading the rest of the series: The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor (all out of print :( ).