What is life? What does it mean to truly live and who – or what – is actually living? These are a few of the prevalent questions and themes that drive the plot of Peter Cawdron’s latest novel, Reentry. A sequel to Retrograde, Reentry sees Dr. Liz Anderson and some of her colleagues return to Earth after their battle with artificial intelligence on Mars – an Earth much different from the one they had left behind.
Liz and the international space crew on Mars may have narrowly fended off an attack by an artificial intelligence, but unbeknownst to them, Earth was subject to a much more devastating onslaught. Other AI had pitted countries against each other, orchestrating nuclear attacks, and causing world-wide catastrophe, panic, fear, and hatred. When Liz and two other scientists return home, they are not welcomed as they had thought would be the case. Instead, believed by most to be working with the AI, they become some of the most hated and hunted humans on the planet. Needing to survive once again – this time on a much grander scale – Liz and her companions must place their trust in the unlikeliest of places.
Full disclosure: I did not read Retrograde in preparation for Reentry; however, Cawdron does a fantastic job at bringing the reader up to speed just enough to be able to comprehend what has come before, but in no way dragging it on in a redundant fashion. While the novel does start off fairly slow – about 70 pages deal with the characters’ re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere – it’s done so intentionally in order to allow the reader to truly experience the process along with Liz. This remains true throughout as the novel’s pace begins to pick up almost to the point of it becoming an action/thriller.
The pacing is not the only thing Cawdron does deliberately. The hard science in this novel – as well as the ever-evolving introspection of Liz – is so well-researched and important to the plot, that every aspect of his writing allows for a realistic take on the future of AI and our world.
Reentry is, without a doubt, one of the finest, most thought-provoking science fiction novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It’s a story filled with moral dilemmas and philosophical questions; it’s a story filled with wonder and hope; and it’s a story that will change the way you think about artificial intelligence and life as we know it.
After almost dying on Mars, astronaut Liz Anderson returns to Earth, but not to a hero’s welcome. America is in turmoil. The war is over, but the insurgency has just begun. So while life on Mars may have been deadly, at least up there she knew who the enemy was. Along with her, Liz has brought the remnants of the artificial intelligence that waged war on two planets. Buried somewhere deep within the cold electronic circuits lies the last vestiges of her dead partner Jianyu. Liz is torn, unsure whether he’s somehow still alive in electronic form or just a ploy by an adversary that will go to any length to win. Heartbroken and treated with suspicion, she finds herself caught up in the guerrilla war being waged on Earth, wondering if the AI threat is truly gone, or if it has only just begun.