So, a month or so ago I came across this book, The Punch Escrow, that seemed right up my alley. I had also come across this really excellent book-review blog, Avalinah’s Books around the same time. I discovered the writer there, Evelina and I share similar tastes in books. And she suggested we read the book and then ask each other questions about the book. These are my answers to her questions.
To see her answers to my questions, click here. She’s way more deep and smart with her reviews than I am, so I bet you will enjoy her take on The Punch Escrow.
First, a brief synopsis:
It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport―the world’s most powerful corporation, in a world controlled by corporations.
Joel Byram spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. He’s pretty much an everyday twenty-second century guy with everyday problems―until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.
Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.
Now, on to my answers:
1. So what did you think of salting? (In the book the main character, Joel, is a Salter. Salters spent their days enriching the cognitive algorithms of artificially intelligent things (tricking them to help them learn to be more human-like).
I love the idea of Salting. I think that would be such a fun job.
2. How did you like the witty main character?
I liked the main character Joel. I think he approached most things with a logical frame of mind, something I can much relate to. I’m a computer programmer as a profession and although that isn’t the same as Joel’s “Salting” I think both use a form of problem solving in their application.
One gripe I had with the book that was minor but still there was I wasn’t sure why the protagonist cared about 1980s music though. Certainly by the year 2147 popular culture has come up with an answer to 80’s pop. That was depressing to me.
3. What do you think about the government situation, where corporations have taken over the rule of state?
I think this is eerily close to where we already are in the United States. I mean, I can draw a very short and straight line from where we are now to where the book is.
We have a for-profit “healthcare” system here as well as a growing for-profit prison system. And those corporations that benefit from these systems heavily influence laws that effect their industries.
So yeah, this is not far-fetched for me at all.
4. In the book, the author often offers snippets that explain a certain scientific aspect of the world in the book. How did you love the science, invented and real, and how those meshed?
The science bits were probably my favorite part. I’ve always been fascinated by teleportation but have realized that the type in Star Trek for example “kills” the traveler only to reassemble them on the other side (how else can they de-materialize then re-materialize on the other side?)
I could spend all day talking about the tech. It’s my favorite part of the book, even more-so than the plot.
In fact, I very much enjoyed the idea of the pee-ing mosquitoes that convert CO2 to water, saving us from global warming. Because, governments and corporations aren’t going to save us here. It will be up to science and human ingenuity again.
Okay, one more piece of tech. I particularly bookmarked a page in the book where they talked about deep-space travel and how they could just store all of the “astronauts” on a hard drive, send that somewhere, and when they got there they could just “print” the “astronauts” out. No need to bring along food for the trip, get rid of human waste, or deal with any of that human stuff on the trip. Of course, they would have to “kill” the originals before they traveled. Or would they?
Spoilers beyond this point:
5. The villains in the book – yay or nay?
I thought the main villain of the book was not the obvious choice at first and there were a few entities that were possible main antagonists. I thought the main dude at the end was a little one-dimensional and comic book villain-y, but this didn’t ruin the book for me.
6. Spoiler section. Which of the Mona Lisas would you deem real?
Define “real” 🙂 . Actually, I would have to say that the “real” Mona Lisa was destroyed.
7. Spoiler section as well – would you say that the people die when they are teleported, or do you think that’s a bit far-fetched? It is kind of philosophical at that point.
I would say they absolutely die. Now, if you believe in a soul I would say they die and then a copy is made. But does that copy share a “soul”? That wouldn’t make sense because then the “soul” is just data. But even if you don’t believe in an idea of a soul you must admit the traveler dies, for a moment at least, before being reassembled.
Actually this is one other small part that bugged me about the book. I wasn’t sure how anybody in that universe could have ever thought they weren’t “dying” for a moment then being reconstructed. Or maybe most people knew this deep down but were fine with it because who wouldn’t want instant travel to any point in the world?
Thanks Evelina for this wonderful exercise. Seriously everybody, go check out her blog Avalinah’s Books. And go read The Punch Escrow.