Saturday, January 7, 2017

James Review -- The Corporation Wars: Dissidence

This week I decided to review The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken Macleod. 

The story starts with a short scene showing a fighter for the Acceleration movement--which believes that for humanity to evolve to its ultimate form, capitalism must continue until all work is done by machines--nicknamed Carlos, controlling a drone combat force in London fighting the forces of the Reaction which wish a return to an age of monarchs being free to do whatever they wish with modern technology to enforce their rule. The Acceleration has a temporary alliance with a number of governments including Great Britain but when the handler assigned to Carlos orders him to shoot down a civilian cargo aircraft in an area where the craft's destruction will cause severe damage to civilian areas of the city Carlos refuses, only to have his controls overridden before he is killed by a cryogenic weapon.

The story then shifts more then a thousand years into the future The Direction, which became humanity's unified government in the aftermath of the last world war between the Acceleration and the Reaction, plus the various governments seeking to stamp out both groups, is carrying out a plan to terraform and colonize a distant solar system, with many corporations claiming rights to different areas. But vagaries in the terms lead to a conflict between two robots from different AI corporations fighting. This leads to one of the robots becoming self-aware and the knowledge of how to become self-aware is swiftly passed to more robots. 

Artificial intelligences are not allowed to control weapons so robots equipped with shutdown viruses are deployed against the renegades. But the rogue units have improvised weaponry and manage to repel two such assaults, leading the Direction corporations to activate a contingency plan, preparing war machines controlled by stored brain patterns of Acceleration war criminals, thus allowing the convicted criminals to earn pardons. The first group of fighters deployed by Locke Provisios includes Carlos who is forced into a leadership role with the fighters living and training in a VR simulation as they prepare for war. But the renegade robots soon discover that this is the second AI uprising--with the first happening a year before--and they ally with the survivors of the earlier revolt. 

Then, during a battle, the fighters of the Arcane Disputes corporation turn against the unit led by Carlos and then ally with the renegade robots they have captured. Eventually Carlos and his second-in-command discover why Arcane Disputes has turned against Locke Provisios and each must decide what to do in response to Arcane's claims...

I give this book 9 out of 10. I wish the battle scenes were longer but the story more than makes up for this shortcoming. The author did a wonderful job of setting up a number of plot points for the sequels to expand on without becoming bogged down in excess details, and the conflicts raised enough questions that I was left wondering what changes the story will lead to if the setting is continued beyond this trilogy.

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