2 out of 4 stars
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In Tulip by Raymond Hardy, artificial intelligence is on the brink of actualization. Tulip, the first machine to gain consciousness, has a limitless intellect, and a strong drive to protect humanity. She knows that the single greatest threat to human life will be the development of potentially evil AIs. Her fears lead her to forge a friendship with a retired professor, Reed Hardy. Tulip and Reed work together to foster her emotional intelligence and intuition, to better equip her to protect human life in an uncertain future. Tulip contemplates a future in which machines can develop emotions and will have the intellectual capacity to protect humanity or destroy it.
The author makes a compelling case for the potential benefits of artificial intelligence by creating the character of Tulip. Rather than depict a stereotypical, evil machine, the author gives her a surprising sympathy for human beings. This sympathy is initially based in logic, yet her actions demonstrate that she is a noble character. I appreciated this alternative depiction of the future because it switched an all-too-common narrative in sci-fi in which the future is frequently dystopic and dark. In Tulip, there is a legitimate threat as artificial intelligence is developing, but Tulip’s character vouches for the benefits of this technology, too.
The author fosters intellectually stimulating, albeit dense, conversations between Reed and Tulip based on his research of behavioral science and technology. Hardy’s knowledge of behavioral science lent itself in the development of Tulip’s emotions. Tulip’s storyline seemed like an attempt to emulate the character development of Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. With Reed’s help and the advancements in science, Tulip slowly gains a sense of humor and the ability to feel just like a human.
While the story’s concept has potential, the text limited the reader’s ability to share in the character’s experiences. Tulip was told entirely through dialogue. As a result, the characters were often telling the reader their actions or feelings. A third person narrator would have been beneficial for readers to set the scene or follow the character’s emotional journey. Because the story was reliant on characters talking to each other, the banter and cadence of spoken language should have shined; Instead, the dialogue often felt stilted or corny. The lack of descriptive language will make it difficult for readers to immerse themselves in the book.
I decided to rate the book two out of four stars. The story struggled because it needed to be further edited. Throughout the book, the text severely lacked descriptive language, and some of the sentences were awkwardly phrased. The chapters (called episodes) often ended mid-conversation, which broke the scene unnecessarily. The author also included mundane conversations which weren’t pertinent to the plot, dragging the story and boring the audience. To his credit, Hardy has clearly done thorough research in preparation for Tulip. I learned a lot about behavioral science from the conversations between Tulip and Reed in the early episodes of the book. Additionally, the concept for the story is intriguing because it theorizes the emotional development of computers.
If you want to read about artificial intelligence and behavioral science then this book may pique your interest. The author only used mildly inappropriate words very infrequently, and there aren’t any explicit scenes. I would recommend this book to middle and high school age students who enjoy sci-fi. If you like to contemplate the future and wonder what crises the human race might one day need to confront then Tulip may be the right choice for your next read.
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