Conflict (Singularity’s Children #3), by Toby Weston

A direct continuation of Singularity’s Children previous two books, Conflict is the story of the old corporate and political powers feeling threatened by decentralized new technology.

After her kidnapping Stella has ‘retired into public life’ – living as a celebrity she would rather not have anything to do with her past.

Based in their great aunt’s Caliphate home, Segi and Zaki are growing more and more into their underground movement of semi-legal (bio) tech.

Keith is still a soldier and being swung around by King Niato with what Niato calls karma. Keith isn’t really buying it but he likes the job.

Conflict is the next logical step after Denial and Disruption: the rich one percent of one percent insist on remaining in power. They are finding a solution in the Philip K. Dick-like propaganda-as-a-service, provided by the ubiquitous company BHJ, led, incidentally, by a very old man dying from cancer but being kept alive in a sack of nutrients who is ‘remoting’ to his head quarters, there to be projected as a perfectly healthy and strong leader.

Conflict feels like the missing link between Stephen Baxter’s dystopian world view and Iain M. Banks’ Culture series’ technological utopia. Weston show how (if at all) we will be forced into this utopia. Decentralisation of technological power is essential, but as with any revolution this will lead to a change of power rather than its abolishment. Key elements in this utopia are upcoming technologies like artificial general intelligence and democratised biotechnology.

Singularity’s Children contains a number of interesting peculiarities, some of which Weston mentions in his afterword.

  • Like Greg Egan and others Weston is drawing the conclusion that the old genderspecific pronouns cannot cover new life forms and chooses to employ explicitly non-genderspecific ones.
  • Nods to Monty Python, The Hitchhike’s Guide to the Galaxy and other great works.
  • A habit of using non-functional but nevertheless funny alliterations. For example, a bomb with a nervous artificial intelligence becomes ‘a psychologically precarious, potential slayer of cities’ and an older woman about to vomit ‘an elegant elderly lady […] show[ing] every sign of an imminent emetic episode’.

The story isn’t relying on it but Westons dry humour certainly does contribute to it. The blurb on the cover says ‘Action Adventure and Techno-Utopian Manifesto’ – and that is exactly what Conflict is.

With this series we can follow Weston’s development as an author. This third book’s story has more meat to it than the previous two and he certainly seems to be heading in the right direction.

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