Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Review: The Personifid Project by R E Bartlett

As the sometime author of mediocre novels myself, I take little pleasure in making negative comments on a book. (Except if it’s so bad that it deserves everything coming, of course, but I don’t think I’ve even started anything that bad for a while.)

I am going to do so now, however, if for no other reason than to try and avoid similar mistakes myself.

So, on with the review. The Personifid Project takes place at some unspecified future time when the Pacific has started to dry up and the planet’s human population is joined by various robot and android companions. The Project concerns the transference of human souls into artificial bodies, thus prolonging life indefinitely. Which sounds like an interesting enough premise, and a plot dealing with the potential use and abuse of this technology could certainly provide plenty of food for thought, although I’m not sure soul transference really fits in the sci-fi setting.
More of an issue to me, however, was the logical inconsistency of a world where the existence of the human soul has been scientifically proven, yet religion has become redundant to the point that Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and indeed any one of the three, have been re-named ‘the Tri-une Soul’. I think there was one passing use of the word ‘Christian’ to assure the reader that our heroes aren’t members of some wacky cult, but really, it all seems very unlikely to say the least.

OK, let’s accept that it’s science-fantasy and suspend our disbelief accordingly. Now what? Well, I’m afraid I still have one more gripe: info-dumping. Now I’m prepared to accept a degree of this, because we’ve been transported to a distant future world and things are going to need a little explanation. Just where that explanation was used got a bit confused though: our heroine, Aphra Vessey, explains the the imprint system (which I had worked out, and got the 'Mark of the Beast' reference) like someone in a cheesy radio ad, but the we were left to figure out for ourselves what the luminire does. Having finished the book, I think it is what any self-respecting author of Trek fan-fic would refer to as a transporter, or a near approximation thereof.

And why, for no apparent reason, did Lev suddenly decide to read the testimony she prepared for her baptism? And to her husband, as it obviously hadn't come up any earlier in their marriage? Surely people don’t really talk like that, even in weird far-future religious cults?

OK, gripes over, I will have to admit that the author must have got something right, because, despite all the flaws, I kept reading. I actually wanted to know what happened next. On the level of a pacy action adventure story, it works. On the whole, the future was well imagined. And on top of that, Aphra's gradual acceptance of the Tri-une Cult was believable, and there were plenty of interesting ideas brought up by the story's basic premise.

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