4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
I initially wasn’t a huge fan of Erin Bow after reading her novel “Sorrow’s Knot”, which I found a little confusing, but then I got to hear her speak at a literary festival and she talked about this book, which at the time she was still writing, I decided to give it a try when I saw it later, and I have found it to be the best of her books so far.
After being rocked by environmental disasters and centuries of war and conflict, humanity’s scientists turn the problem of how to broker peace on the planet over to their smartest AI. Instead of giving them a straight answer, the AI takes control of all of the earth’s military satellites, destroys a few of the earth’s most important cities and demands that humanity behave. In order to enforce the peace, Talis (the AI) forces the world’s leaders to hand over their children, with the understanding that any aggressive leader will have their offspring executed.
Greta is the duchess of Halifax (I love that!) and she has spent most of her life living in the compound with the other hostages, their every move watched by Talis and his robot servants. All of the children are resigned to meet their fates with dignity until a revolution in America has one of their number executed and replaced with a firecracker of a boy named Elian who does not accept the current system. Greta and the other children try to fit him into their life on the compound but it is an uphill battle, and with his territory moving towards war with Greta’s, they might be the next of their cohort to be executed.
What really shines in this book is Talis. Greta is not an exceptionally interesting character, not having any real character flaws, and most of Elian’s character is just being defiant. Talis is snort milk out of your nose funny. Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes of Talis’ and we get to see his very sardonic reactions to human stupidity. He reminds us our propensity to kill each other is the reason we cannot have nice things.
This book presents a realistic interpretation of what it would really take to stop human’s wars: another intelligence with the capacity to destroy cities directly threatening us until we stop.
Erin Bow has a great sense of humour and this book really displays that. It is intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable.