March 30, 2009

Complete: Free Radical

So I mentioned that I had finished reading Free Radical again, but neglected to mention what exactly it was. To put it simply, the book is a fan fiction re imagining of System Shock 1, a video game.

In the original System Shock, you took the role of a nameless Hacker who was thrust into the depths of a space station controlled by SHODAN, an Artificial Intelligence construct who had gone haywire, without knowing more than the bare minimum of who you were, or what you were doing there. Shamus Young wrote this book to give a name and a further back story to Hacker.

I came to read this book having played through most(but not all) of System Shock 2, so I knew the general history of the original, and what happened at the end. I would call this a very lucky coincidence, as it put me in a good frame of mind to learn more about what happened, as I was familiar with the main antagonist of the story, but not with the actual processes of the gameplay so I was unaffected by any changes to the "real" story that Shamus may have made. I think I'd actually rather not play the original to get that "real" story, as the one in the book stands very well on its own, and I would assume the original System Shock to be too much of an antique to still be as enjoyable as the sequel still remains.

Generally, the tone of the book is that of an intense Thriller, but occasionally it takes a break and switches to a slower paced account of SHODAN's creation, and the ideas of how an actual Artificial Intelligence construct might work. This is a welcome change of pace, as the ideas expressed are genuinely interesting, and make me optimistic that one day we'll be able to tackle the concept of a sentient machine, though I pray we won't make the mistakes that we've seen with SHODAN, Skynet or GLaDOS.

I would recommend that anyone interested in AI, or even science fiction in general should read this book, which is available for reading online at the author's website, linked above.


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