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Reviewed by Charles Remington for Readers' Favorite
Dr Abigail Brennaman wakes from an indeterminate period of ‘cryonic suspension’ to find herself in a strange, hospital-like environment which she is informed is called Eden. She is weak and alone, monitored by a sophisticated computer which is able to assist with her recovery using robot drones and communicating in a soothing masculine voice. Rebirth by David Maxwell tells how she slowly comes to terms with her situation, eventually learning to trust and rely on the computer as it gently reveals the shocking events that led to her being in Eden. The explanations, extraordinary as they seem, follow a logical pattern and are plausible, but in a corner of her mind a small shadow of doubt remains; doubt which is magnified as new individuals are revived from their cryonic sleep and join her in this strange, somewhat claustrophobic environment. As more details of Eden’s function and mission are revealed, the relationship between humans and computer starts to disintegrate. Can the tiny group of humans trust the computer’s explanations and exhortations, and if not, can they prevail against it?
I found Rebirth engrossing, the plot elegantly revealing just enough to engage one’s curiosity, and deftly leading to the next shocking event or revelation. The computer reminded me very much of the HAL 9000 model in the film 2001 (based on Arthur C. Clarke’s book of the same name). It seemed to have the same calm convincing tones, but could it be trusted? David Maxwell presents a fascinating if somewhat frightening look at Artificial Intelligence and its interaction with the human variety, a subject currently much discussed in scientific circles as we approach the capability of creating the first thinking computers.