So the crew is astounded when the OMC flips out and kills itself. They are double astounded when the two backup OMCs also go crazy after being hooked up—And they haven’t even made it out of the solar system yet! The book starts just after the crew kills the last OMC—it had gone on a rampage and killed two of the crew members. If this isn’t bad enough, early on we get the hint that there might not even be a habitable planet in the Tau Ceti system!
So what is going on? Well, the crew decides to make an artificial intelligence to run the computer and that is what the book is about. Nothing much happens in this book—the crew members talk a lot of theory about consciousness and how to create it. In fact, my main complaint with the book is that the crew talks a lot and not much happens. It wouldn’t be bad if the talking was fathomable, but its so laced with jargon it’s hard to pick apart and figure out what they are all getting on about. I program computers for a living and I still couldn’t figure out what they were getting at when they talked about the computers subroutines and such. I don’t think Frank Herbert knew a lot about computers. A lot of it certainly sounded good, but when I tried to decode some of the jargon laced sentences, they just didn’t really parse. One of the crew members experiments with a variety of mind altering drugs in an attempt to figure out at what level we are conscious—I wonder if the author was also doing these types of experiments while writing this book. :-).
The result of all this is a book that sounds extremely intelligent, doesn’t make a lot of sense and doesn’t go anywhere for the most part. The end is extremely abrupt, but I happened to like it. I didn’t hate this book—I liked it in spite of myself. Frank Herbert’s writing style is very impressive, even if the ideas are sometimes incomprehensible. Apparently this book is a prequel to the “Pandora Series”, and so I’ve ordered the rest of the series because the end makes it seem like the rest of the series will have a more fertile universe this book had. If you want to read a lot of theories about consciousness, and perhaps you yourself are experimenting with mind altering substances, then you may enjoy this book more than I did—and by the way I did enjoy it.