cover image Silver Screen

Silver Screen

Justina Robson. Pyr, $15 (383pp) ISBN 978-1-59102-338-8

""Where does the life end and the machine begin?"" asks one of the cyberscientists in Robson's 1999 UK debut, now making its overdue American appearance after the critically acclaimed Natural History (2004). Yes, it's the same old AI question framed in Matrix-style allure, and many readers are likely to find the whole idea a little too familiar. Nonetheless, while Natural History is a superior read with a tighter plot, this messier treatment is also thought-provoking SF. When Anjuli O'Connell, an ""AI psych"" and self-described ""human file server,"" discovers the body of fellow OptiNet employee and friend, Roy Croft, after he's uploaded his essence into 901, OptiNet's giant AI, Anjuli becomes involved in a deadly game. Is Roy, an anarchist and machine liberation advocate who interfaces with others through projected holographs of silver screen legends, dead or part of 901? Anjuli must find Roy's old diary, the ""Source,"" and the key to the mystery. Roy's zealot father and Anjuli's testimony in an important trial further complicate the quest. Sometimes, the confessional style-narrative slows to a snail's pace, while Anjuli mulls over the puzzle pieces and takes a brief detour into a goofy subplot with her cyborg boyfriend. Still, this is a fascinating peek into the development of one of SF's brightest new stars.