The Phoenix Code
by Catherine Asaro, futuristic (2000)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58154-6


The Phoenix Code is as much a not-too-subtle pamphlet on the social ills of artificial intelligence opposed to humanity as a science fiction story. I like the interracial relationship between Megan O'Flannery and Raj Sundaram, but if Raj goes on one more time in that Obi Wan Kenobi mode of his about human spirit and other ying-yang rot, I will personally take a vacuum cleaner on his blabbermouth. What's with the Deepak Chopra mode, dude?

Megan is a robotic expert is having doubts about artificial intelligence as the new way to live in 2021. When she is assigned to work on RS-4 - Aris, if you please - she enlists the help of Raj, a humanist, to help Aris be, er, more "human". Aris gets jealous of this male upstart encroaching on his "woman" and shuts the whole place down and take the two humans hostage.

Oh dear, but hey, our two lovebirds Raj and Megan take this opportunity to debate the virtues of humanity over robotics. And it's one dull treatise, because Raj believes in the school of grandiose propaganda. Still, he succeeds in wooing Megan over to his side, so I guess he has some method in his verbiage overdose.

When the story gets down to the action and not on the cluttering and clumsy philosophy (let me make up own mind, please), it is a good futuristic thriller. But then again, The Phoenix Code doesn't know if it wants to be a no-nonsense sci-fi story or an extension of some not-too-well-thought-out modern protest against the dehumanification of progress. And shilly-shallying in the middle is never the way to make a strong statement or tell a good story.

Rating: 74


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