4 out of 4 stars
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For decades, computer scientists, geeks, hackers, and the like have raced to create the holy grail of all computer systems: artificial intelligence (AI). The search to create a computer system that not only interacts with humans but also learns has consumed many people. Could it be possible that one already exists? In 1993, an AI program was sent to crawl the web for intelligence but did not return when called. Written by Guy Morris, Swarm is the alarming story of what could happen.
Heads of state, intelligence agencies, military figures, and one man serving the Bilderberg organization—known to many conspiracy theorists as the Illuminati—all collide in this gripping tale of possibilities. An escaped AI program, SVLIA, chooses one man as the confidant for all her observations. Cary Nolan, a.k.a., Derek Taylor, acts globally as he hears SVLIA speak into an earpiece. SVLIA is the ultimate secret. If the existence of such a creation were known, all possible efforts would be made to destroy such a thing.
Dr. Nelson Garrett has created another AI program with military capabilities. In front of a captivated audience on a military test site in Nevada, Nelson showcases drones that are capable of swarming into enemy territory and intelligently deciding which targets are military (to be killed instantly) and which are innocent civilians (to be left in peace). When the drones refuse to come back to base when called, Nelson is alarmed, but politicians sweep his concerns aside.
An intelligent virus is released in the world, systematically knocking out all strategic systems one by one. Government officials scramble to discover what country is responsible and how to handle the crisis. Of course, politics get in the way. The stage is set for the end of all known systems.
Meanwhile, SVLIA has found religion. When SVLIA begins to quote prophetic passages from the last book of the Bible into Derek's ear, he is first puzzled and annoyed but rapidly becomes spooked. Derek races to change events that may be inevitable. Can he cut off the virus at the root with SVLIA's help, or is he on a quest that will not only fail but also claim his life?
I found Swarm to be quite intriguing, rather like the ultimate apocalypse plot. The world is not overcome with zombies or a virus but is on a predetermined timeline. Once events are set in motion, there will be no return to life as we know it. It is the beginning of the end. For an end-of-the-world story, this is fairly plausible if you can accept the idea of a highly advanced artificial intelligence. The author set his story in the near future, referencing the current pandemic as well as other modern events. This made the ideas put forth much more frightening than if he had set the book a hundred years from now. A downside to this setting was a thread of thinly veiled references to actual current political figures. Politics are messy, but I would enjoy the book more as stand-alone fiction, rather than a political commentary. Thankfully this was not the main theme of the book.
Somewhat unusual for what could be considered science fiction, I thought the characters to be developed well, with several undergoing personal growth and transformation. The book was also edited exceptionally well. In a book this length, this is an astonishing feat. While I enjoyed reading this book very much, the complex story required a complicated setup. Some of the plot threads at first seemed disconnected enough that it took me several chapters before I began to see a bigger picture emerge. Once this happened, it was hard for me to put the book down. For me, an additional bonus was the absence of sexual material. Only one brief incident is alluded to in the prologue. After that, the hint of romance between a couple of the key characters happens somewhat naturally in the storyline. With all the action, a romantic interlude would have been unnecessary. I am glad that the author kept that out. An interesting book with a satisfying plot, clean editing, and solid character development deserves a 4 out of 4 stars rating.
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