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The author explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and the consequences of creating an artificial intelligence that is self-aware.
Destination Void's a fairly difficult read and an even tougher "listen." Herbert's writing is dense with techno-babble and conceptual exposition. I had to, at many points, go back several paragraphs and re-read. Listening to the audiobook demanded extreme attention - and even then it was difficult to 'follow' the story in anything but a superficial way.
I cannot recommend the audiobook despite Scott Brick's excellent narration. This is a book that must be read to be understood. If then ...
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I first heard of this book in a Modern Scholar audiobook on Science Fiction (also available on Audible). I later came across a paperback copy of this book for a long time, but flipping through it I could tell this would be a book I would have a hard time wading through. The audiobook version proved me right!
On the one hand, this book has intriguing concepts about artificial intelligence and the dangers in creating it. The characters are basically forced into a situation in which they have to create a functional AI under duress. The ways they are manipulated, and their efforts to produce a mechanical analog to the human brain using their ship did create many neat and thought-provoking moments.
On the other hand, the book is filled with technical details that went right over my head. Herbert seems to have done quite a bit of work to make this a piece of Hard SF, but the problem is that the kinds of machinery he bases his work on (huge computers with magnetic tape readers, tons of plugs and relays, and a fraction of the computing power of my laptop) make the book quite dated. I'm not a luddite, but I wonder if someone more steeped in the technology of the time would have an easier time following the logic of the character's building process.
Also, the characters at times seem more less like round characters and more like vehicles to have a discussion about AI. Much of the book is spent with them chucking scientific revelations at one another followed by philosophical introspection. It felt too contrived.
Scott Brick's superb narration made this audiobook readable (or listen-able, I guess). It's a difficult text to begin with, but his efforts brought out the drama and its nuances. If he wasn't the narrator on this one I am uncertain as to whether or not I would have downloaded it.
I knew this would be a difficult book going in, and since I plan on listening to the next book in the series, The Jesus Incident (which from the reviews I have read is much more readable for a contemporary audience), I am glad I picked up this one.
I would recommend this book to die-hard Herbert fans looking to branch out from Dune and Hard SF geeks interested in how AI was discussed before the digital revolution. Casual science fiction listeners will be put off by all of the technical discussions of dated technology.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful