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|The Personifid Project
by R.E. Bartlett
Published by Realms, 2005
Recommended by: Stuart Stockton
The Personifid Project is a science fiction novel with a most interesting premise. In the distant future, science has discovered the means to not only detect souls, but encase them in artificial bodies, Personifids, to stave off death.
When Aphra, a secretary at the Sevig Empire Corporation, overhears a sinister conversation, she fears for her life. Her fears are confirmed when she witnesses the "discontinuation" of a fellow employee. Soon she is fleeing assassins, reliant on the help of strangers, and desperately trying to find out what is going on.
This is a story much in the tradition of films such as I, Robot, Blade Runner, Minority Report, or Equilibrium, though without the detective angle. A vision of the future where society seeks to stave off death through aritficial means, and keep the "bad parts" of human nature suppressed with drugs and virtual reality. And ask the question, "Can we really separate our evil nature from our good?"
The Personifid Project is a briskly paced story, with lots of action, and a few good twists. Also the vision of a post-apocalyptic earth, where people must live in shielded cities or underground, is well realized. With a good array of believable technology that bridges the gap from present to future.
However, a few things really irked me. For one, the reader is forcibly kept out of hearing the sinister conversation that Aphra overhears at the start of the book, even though we are in her point of view. This creates a bit of a false feeling suspense as we have Aphra thinking about how horrible what she heard was and how she races to cover it up through the rest of the chapter, until she finally confides to her home computer. It made me feel a bit cheated.
Bartlett also falls into the pitfall of a bit too much telling when describing certain technologies or cultural bits of the story. Perhaps just a stylistic irk for me, but I prefer these things to be blended a bit better then have the story stop for a paragraph explaining why Cantabrian security is different than other places (as just one example.)
I also had a real hard time connecting with Aphra. I never really felt sorry for her or like rooting for her. She was too whiney, oblivious and self-centered, and never really seemed to grow out of it. Still there were plenty of other interesting characters, such as the minor but fun Chickenwing. And Aphra's bounty hunter brother, with his penchant for odd computers.
Overall the book rose above the irks for me and I enjoyed the tale. Bartlett has created a fun futuristic world full of wild possibilities. If you like futuristic Sci-fi be sure to give this one a go. (May, 2006)
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