There aren’t too many science fiction books that are quite so positive about near future sciences that may well allow the ‘cloning’ of the human mind. I got the strong impression that Wolf is contemplating/dreaming a life for himself as an artificial intelligence when his body gives up the ghost, the ‘soul’. We see the dream of a ‘heaven’, a life beyond the disposal of our corpses, a continued existence in the digital world. We see Wolf’s hopes for adding the other senses, than just easily achievable hearing and sight; namely touch, sensation, sentient feeling to his future non-biological self. He guards against the evil inside us all by allowing the earliest freed mind, his Adam, to set strong moral parameters to all future behaviour patterns. Wolf seems to be considering his own moral architecture as the ideal, as seen in the many personal ‘political’ imperatives he works into the plot.
The book comes through to me as being deeply unreligious, though certainly not anti-religion. A conventional belief in the afterlife isn’t excluded. Mindclone simply ‘invents’ an electronic heaven between the life here and the future ones expounded by ‘church’. So really, this isn’t the sort of SF that might cause religious offence, even though it envisages the construction of artificial ‘soul’ as one answer to our prayers.
The science fiction is top notch, truly Asimovian, but as with most such serious SF it isn’t the sort of book that is dynamically exciting. Ideas, the excitement of science, and scientific philosophy, are more important to Wolf than emotionally manipulating of the reader. Many modern readers seem addicted to tension and attack books that fail to offer constant adrenal punches. In this book, excitement is generated by opening up ideas, through challenging us to make use of our own minds to think through the implications behind this someday, soon plausible, plot. We are led to explore jealousy, love, hate, pain, and everything else that makes us human. These feelings are essential to the building of personality, us, into any truly ‘humanitarian’ artificial intelligence. Also to an ‘evil’ intelligence, of course!
The quality of the writing is as high as the quality of Wolf’s ideas. I am critical of the failure to make the most of the conspiracies within the plot, because the better employment of these elements would have made this an even better book. The villain was as clichéd and unsatisfactory as the hero was original and substantive. Perhaps Wolf is too frightened of his future upload becoming the victim of the evil in mankind to make the villain truly diabolic, powerful and likely to succeed.
This book is interesting, creative, intelligent, engaging, well-worth my time. Wolf is here very positive about near future developments in the non-biological reproduction of biological self. This individual, the biological me, found this book to be stimulating rather than exciting.