Dark Matter by Greg Iles
This is a high octane ride through the world of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and deals with the pros and cons of progressing too far too quickly in this field. As we become more fully immersed in the world of the internet, and as our western societies depend evermore completely upon the technology at our fingertips, Dark Matter is a sobering reminder of all that can go wrong.
David Tennant is a doctor seconded by the US President to provide ethical oversight on a new and highly ambitious AI project. The scientists involved now believe that they have found a way to create the first fully alive computer, and are determined to see the work done regardless of consequences. But Tennant has deep reservations about what is taking place and is joined in his opposition by Dr Fielding, an English genius who soon dies under suspicious circumstances. David believes that Fielding was murdered to silence him, and now those responsible are coming for him next.
Tennant tries desperately to convince his psychiatrist, Rachel Weiss, that his life is in danger, but Rachel is skeptical, even as she falls in love with him. It doesn’t help matters that David has been having extreme hallucinations and vivid dreams brought about by experiments that he and the other projects members undertook on themselves. Tennant begins to believe that he is, in fact, Jesus. Yes, you read it correctly. And no, we’re not talking about that nice Mexican who works tirelessly at Taco Bell, but the fella from Nazareth who likes his wine and hangs out with fishermen.
If you’re now thinking that the plot is stark-raving mad, then you’re not far wrong. It is. Yet, somehow, and don’t ask Rebel Voice why, it holds… for the most part. It is severely stretched in places, however, and it is the fine writing that makes it sound almost plausible. The characters are fairly strong, if a tad one-dimensional, and the action is relentless. Dark Matter is an engaging, if overly fantastical, read.
The AI venture is named Project Trinity. It involves mapping a human brain using high-intensity MRI scans which are then downloaded into a super-computer. The machine then effectively becomes the person, expanding their consciousness and universal knowledge. If the scientists simply took acid, they could have saved one billion dollars but hey, who is Rebel Voice to make such suggestions. In this AI process, the person whose mind is downloaded gains a form of immortality, unless, that is, someone pulls the plug or drops their soft drink over the equipment, or hits the off-switch whilst having sweaty sex with Sally from human resources, not that Rebel Voice knows anything about such calamities and anyway, Sally from human resources is much too careful to hit any off switches. It’s always on with Sally from human resources. Anyhow… where were we…?
Dark Matter delves into the origins of life, the universe and everything. It mixes religion, science and philosophy as an answer is sought, and an explanation (if you don’t mind) to the previous major questions given. Is it possible that Greg Iles is suffering from acid flashbacks? It would explain his wacky attempt to answer questions that are unanswerable. Although the basic premise of Dark Matter is OK, and whilst the pace is strong, it is the conclusive chapters that tend to fall flat. The author seems determined to cram too much into his ending. At one point, David Tennant ends up in Palestine – he mistakenly (or perhaps not dependent upon his agenda) calls it Israel – as he follows the path of Jesus on the way to his crucifixion. The author then goes on to portray both Mossad and the Israeli state as overly reasonable and friendly. Readers who know the truth of both will understand that Mossad is a band of cutthroat assassins, and Israel is a rogue state responsible for the murder of thousands of civilians including children in recent times. Greg Iles is misinformed and his ignorance shows in this novel in this respect.
Sult scale rating: 6 out of 10. Not the worst book you will ever read, but nowhere near the best. Highly questionable conclusions, even for a work of fiction. The inaccurate depiction of Israel makes this book extremely flawed. Yet the writing is good and should manage to hold your attention until the end. You might scratch your head at the author’s ideas on the reasons for our existence. Or maybe not. Based upon the author’s reasoning in this novel, Iles might end up as both scientific and spiritual adviser for Trump.