Written by : Michael Blackbourn @mikeblackbourn
Available to buy via Amazon HERE
“Civilization is poised on the edge of technological collapse. Thomas Kirby, employed at a floundering company endures life on the brink, plagued by recurring nightmares and the fear of losing his job. He wants nothing more than to provide for his family and bring some stability into their lives.
Salvation seems to be at hand. His friend Roko Kasun, an artificial-intelligence researcher, shares a world-shattering secret. He’s on the cusp of launching a Super-intelligent AI – a guardian-angel that promises to usher in a new world order. Only after Thomas teams up with his ambitious friend does Roko reveal the catch: his preparations to summon this god-like savior have not gone unnoticed. Roko has drawn the gaze of the Basilisk – a shadowy power capable of ensuring, or extinguishing humanity’s only chance at survival.
To unravel the threat Thomas will question everything. Is there a connection between Roko and the Basilisk, or can Roko be trusted to control the future? If Roko is lying, Thomas is the only one who can stop him. If Roko is telling the truth, Thomas must now show the courage to assist him in the most important act ever taken in human history.”
It’s not often an author whose work I’ve never encountered before comes along and just slays me. This happened with Michael Blackbourn and Roko’s Basilisk.
This book just lit up my brain like an automated slot machine in Vegas paying out the jackpot.
When I first read the blurb I was more than a little bit intimidated. High brow, intellectual Sci-Fi usually isn’t my cup of tea. Usually the details and having to pay attention to a load of what seems, to me, like mumbo jumbo becomes tiring, I get bored, and off I trot to read something with spaceships and aliens fighting each other instead. This wasn’t the case the Roko’s Basilisk. Despite being some of the most intelligent Sci-Fi I’ve ever read, Blackbourn’s writing style makes it a joy to absorb. He has a knack, it seems to make complex notions and ideas simple to digest. I understood this perfectly, while an author of lesser talent would have me scratching my head wondering what the hell was going on.
I’m being deliberately light on plot description here. At 45 pages this novella, if you read it in one sitting like I did, will only take about an hour, and I don’t want to rob you of a single minute of the joy I got out of this. It evoked feelings for me similar to the first time I saw Terminator, or the first time I read Demon Seed by Dean Koontz.
Blackbourn’s story structure here is a brave choice, jumping from the character’s present, to his “hallucinations/nightmares”. At the beginning I had a bit of an issue getting a handle on it , but within a few chapters it was second nature and easy to follow.
The world building in this little novella is outstanding. Talk of food shortages replacing food stuff common now with protein taken from insects or “Land-Shrimp”. Vitavax health shots, nanobots that swim through your bloodstream, repairing problems, automated cars. All of these things really helped me imagine the world that Thomas the protagonist lives in, or at least thinks he lives in…
Dialogue here is perfect, people speak in this book how they speak in real life. That’s important. A lot of books offered to me for review on this site never see the light of day because the authors can’t write realistic conversations between characters.
This was honestly one of the best Sci-Fi stories I’ve ever read. Tight, economical and beautifully written. Have I mentioned yet how utterly terrifying it is as well? This story will give you pause to think about A.I. and what it would mean to have truly sentient Artificial intelligence.
The sequel Roko’s Labyrinth is already finished and the third installment is currently being written so all you series lovers needn’t fret, there’s more where this came from. I can’t wait to read them
As I write this Roko’s Basilisk is 99p on Amazon for Kindle. I’m not kidding this is literally the best £1.00 I’ve ever spent. Go buy this fantastic book right now….