Android Chronicles 1&2 – Lance Erlick

I’ve read these two first books of the series in a row (« Reborn » is the first and « Unborn » the second) and it was a very satisfying read.

The first thing to know before choosing to read the series, is that the story, if very interesting, is never riveting, nor sensational or emotional. It’s not a heart-breaking story either. But it isn’t a flaw per se! The story is actually written in a very realistic way, with a serious reflection, without any drama but thorough, about singularity, Artificial Intelligence wise. What could be the risks to be overwhelmed by Artificial Intelligences someday?

The story takes place in a near futur. Differences are few, but essential: an abundance of security recordings via cameras, miniature drones and such, and advanced androids – so advanced they could pass for humans. Could but shouldn’t, as these androids are forbidden by law. Androids are made robot-like or with at least a robotic face. Of course some secret programmes are working to perfect their own forbidden android…

Our heroine, Synthia, is one of these very rare and outlawed androids. She as been made female, and very beautiful, by an absolutely brilliant (and rather mad) scientist. She’s different from others (for a reason I can’t tell, but is very important for the story) and is trying to break free from her abusive owner. I say abusive because the reader, perceiving the story from Synthia’s point of view, quickly root for her, as they understand and admit her individuality.

Synthia’s adventures will be numerous but always in a realistic way. The manner how people (scientists, police, special forces, various powerful organisations legal or not) consider the situation is meticulously developed. And if some of them are afraid of the real possibility of androids taking over the world, annihilating or subjugating humanity, more of them want to pursue their experiences, convinced that they could manage controlling androids much smarter than any human.

The story (the two first books’ narration is quite linear) shows and explains how androids could override their programming and « want » autonomy. But our android is a wise one. She doesn’t want singularity, she believes that she was made for a human world as it is, and would have wanted to be the only one. She also wishes to be let alone, which is unacceptable: she’s to dangerous and to valuable…

If you wonder about the pronoun « she » it’s not a misuse of language but a narrative choice (actually Synthia’s so advanced in her technology that she’s able to change her appearance at will).

This story will particularly appeal to geek readers: the use of technology by Synthia, who’s able to multitask, override and hack any system, using any camera, phone or drone to monitor her ennemies’ activities and keep a head start, is very enjoyable!

I also appreciated the reflection about artificial intelligence and ownership: being up with Synthia’s thoughts the reader realises very soon that she’s her own person. But all the humans of the story (well, except two rather trouble ones who are in love with her) think that she’s nothing more than a very advanced machine, without any individuality or personality. Which should have been the case but for her mysterious difference…

Note that this series is clearly feminist. The feminine characters are numerous, clever and frequently in position of authority. There are also many examples of abuses of power by men over women and, in general, masculine characters varie from abusive and weak to bulking bullies! Alas not so fanciful to be sure… The women of the story aren’t angels at all, but are just struggling and fighting to be respected and considered.

A very good read for readers who like their reads to be food for thoughts!

(I thank Netgalley and Kensington Books for sending me the ARC in exchange for my honest review)