Proof of Concept: On a desperately overcrowded future Earth, crippled by climate change, the most unlikely hope is better than none. Governments turn to Big Science to provide them with the dreams that will keep the masses compliant. The Needle is one such dream, an installation where the most abstruse theoretical science is being tested: science that might make human travel to a habitable exoplanet distantly feasible.
When the Needle’s director offers her underground compound as a training base, Kir is thrilled to be invited to join the team, even though she knows it’s only because her brain is host to a quantum artificial intelligence called Altair.
But Altair knows something he can’t tell.
Kir, like all humans, is programmed to ignore future dangers. Between the artificial blocks in his mind, and the blocks evolution has built into his host, how is he going to convince her the sky is falling? – Goodreads
Proof of Concept Review
Although it is only 176 (kindle) pages long, Proof of Concept feels like a novel length read. Not in the ‘it’s just slow and boring and feels like it’s taking forever way’ that one might assume, either. Instead, Gwyneth Jones does a great job of giving the reader so much story in a relatively short amount of pages. As soon as she establishes the setting, she’s off and running. The pace is fast, the dialogue is good, and there’s enough death to make a sci-fi & horror hound happy.
Gwyneth Jones explores several ideas within Proof of Concept. Some new, some not so much. How would a group of extroverts and a group of introverts get along if trapped in an isolated environment? What if our current evolution of media and popular opinions being the ruling ones continues the way it has been? Facts will give way to who has the most popular opinion. Her GAM (Global Audience Media) virtual media representative seems disturbingly likely if that’s the case. Also, her take on the first hosted AI is definitely something to be considered. (There’s more, of course, but you’ll need to read it yourself.)
Proof of Concept does require your full attention. This is not a story you can breeze through. There were paragraphs, especially in the beginning, that I had to read a few times when I had gotten distracted. It’s not a book that gives you multiple paragraphs of text you need to have a science degree to understand, though. You just need to be able to wrap your brain around some large words and hefty ideas.
The end of Proof of Concept had me exclaiming in frustration. Then turning back to the beginning to see what in the world I missed. Sure enough, even though I’d read one paragraph like three times, I still managed to miss the clue that would have set me up for the ending. It was something that, in retrospect, should have been if not obvious than at least not a surprise.
Side note: I was happy to see the nod to Stephen Hawking.
Overall, Proof of Concept was a great read and I can’t wait to check out more work from Gwyneth Jones!