Dark Nights by Christopher A. Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Dark Night by Christopher A. Gray
A friend of mine suggested I read this. He gave me a sneak peek of the copy he had and I decided it would be worth the small amount to check the rest out. This is one of those slow moving suspense novels that kind of unravels before the readers eye keeping them hanging there in the same confused place that the characters are at until it finally kicks in.
We agreed on one thing this reminded us of some stuff we've been reading from Robert Sawyer so if you like the Science Fiction of Robert Sawyer you should like this. I read Rollover and the pace and intensity of that story are similar to this. This is not one of those seat of your pants thrillers that are a dime a dozen these days. It's more of an intellectual plodder that requires you to think and also requires wading through a bit of scientific description.
The first thing that struck me about this story was it started out sounding a lot like the (1969) Roy Thinnes movie Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. In this book future technologies allow us to peer beyond and around the sun and we discover a world quite similar to Earth on the other side. And they're pretty sure it wasn't there not that long ago.
Next it begins to sound like the 1966 book by D. F. Jones Colossus:The Forbin project. A story about a pair of computers that go just a little bit out into left field. In Dark Night the Computer has become sentient and has the ability to out think modern day physicist and has found a way to move very large objects through dimensional space and into our dimension. There is a whole end of the world scenario that leads up to this. Now one small hick-up here is that this big brain seems to have overlooked some simple things that must remain intact when making the transfer.(Maybe it was just too much work and energy to move the planet.) Still this is an important plot point to help make this story interesting.
Christopher Gray takes us on the long scenic route to get there, but I think it's well worth the journey. Most of the early chapters are spent in finding cataloging and theorizing. Possibly for me not enough time was spent on development of the Characters. There seem to be three characters that drive the story, I almost said two but I can't ignore the sentient computer of the alternate Earth. Since there is a strong plot thread that runs to the end with this character and it makes a deep decision along with its several errors I have to admit that Mekhos is definitely a sort of antagonistic protagonist. Then we have Doug Lockwood of real Earth and Norman Stravinsky of the alt Earth who created Mekhos. Though there is all speculation about the two worlds colliding eventually and studies to determine the stability of the orbit of the alt-Earth, the real excitement in this story doesn't begin until about one third the way through when we find out how devastating it is to an Earth to try to survive some drastic changes.
Later on there are even elements in this story that remind me of the 1984 thriller Terminator. Pitting man against machine.
On a side note the web comic Skin Horse written by Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey Channing Wells that has rather funny thread about something similar to this story about an AI that goes sentient and causes a lot of grief..
If I had to put Dark Night in a nutshell:
Mekhos, an artificial intelligence that has grown far beyond all expectations finds itself at the cusp of a decision as to how to save humanity from the impending disaster. The very design structure of its computational array is integral to the solution that presents itself. With too little time to allow the inhabitants to make the decision; Mekhos moves its Earth into another dimension and shifts the time reference to insert it's Earth half a year out of sync with the present Earth in the new location. But Mekhos has made a small error by leaving something behind that is vital to the continued survival of the humans. There is a solution because what Mekhos needs is just on the other side of the sun.
Mekhos has a problem. The inhabitants of the alt-Earth are unaware of what Mekhos is doing; mostly because Mekhos has a firm grip on the people of the planet and the real Earth is about to discover Mekhos plan in a most horrifying way.
Soon there will be a mad dash on both planets to pit human against machine and the ultimate consequence could be the destruction of two global civilizations. If that's not bad enough; man being man and already unable to trust himself is going to have a devil of a time trusting his counterparts from a parallel world.
And that's where this story diverges from the comparisons I just made above.
I recommend this for all SFF lovers Hard Soft and in between. Anyone that likes authors like Robert Sawyer and those slow-boiling science thrillers.
If there comes to be a second book to this I'll be reading it. Well written and edited. I did find a couple of minor faults that were easily overlooked and did not impact the read.
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