cover image Evolutions Darling (Tr)

Evolutions Darling (Tr)

Scott Westerfeld. Running Press Book Publishers, $15.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-56858-149-1

In the context of this novel, ""Evolution's Darling"" is a phrase used by people who envy sentient AIs (Artificial Intuitions) ""because they could evolve... within the span of a lifetime, while biologicals were trapped on that slow wheel of generations."" The ""Darling"" of the title refers to a former starship mind, an AI whose increasingly intimate bond with the adolescent daughter of the ship's captain allowed his Turing Quotient to exceed 1.0. With a value above that level, an ""artificial"" is granted personhood and full human rights. After gaining a cyborg body and outliving his lover, Darling's unique abilities lead him to become an art dealer. After 200 years of traveling, Darling finally hopes to meet the reclusive sculptor Robert Vaddum, whose bizarre work has intrigued and obsessed Darling for decades. On the way to Malvir, Vaddum's world, Darling meets Mira, a woman whose personal history was stolen by the AIs and replaced with a career as an assassin. Sex with Darling triggers strange dreams that may be Mira's recovered memories, the key to unlocking her life before becoming a high-tech killer. But now Mira must finish her latest job: slaying the Maker, a being responsible for the heinous crime of copying an artificial's mind. Darling's search for Vaddum becomes entwined with Mira's pursuit of the Maker, but these stories also become so hopelessly entangled in a morass of out-of-place flashbacks and recovered memories that it's difficult to care whether anyone achieves his or her ultimate goal. While Westerfeld's setting and characters, clearly influenced by the work of Iain Banks, are intriguing, they're severely undermined by choppy action and weak plotting. (May)