Helene (Lost Tales of Solace) by Karl Drinkwater #BookReview #BlogTour

Dr Helene Vermalle is shaping the conscience of a goddess-level AI.
As a leading civilian expert in Emergent AI Socialisation, she has been invited to assist in a secret military project.
Her role? Helping ViraUHX, the most advanced AI in the universe, to pass through four theoretical development stages. But it’s not easy training a mind that surpasses her in raw intellect. And the developing AI is capable of killing her with a single tantrum.
On top of this, she must prove her loyalty to the oppressive government hovering over her shoulder. They want a weapon. She wants to instil an overriding sense of morality.
Can she teach the AI right and wrong without being categorised as disloyal?
Lost Tales of Solace are short side-stories set in the Lost Solace universe.

It's my pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Helene today. Many thanks to Karl Drinkwater and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

I really enjoyed the first Solace book, Lost Solace when I read it last year so I was delighted to visit this universe again, albeit in short story form this time. Helene is the first of the Lost Tales of Solace and is set just before Lost Solace.
This is speculative science fiction which asks some fascinating questions about the possible ethics involved in the development and evolution of artificial intelligence. If the aim is to produce AI which is capable of experiencing and even exceeding human abilities then what are the moral considerations of controlling and essentially limiting the full potential of an emerging conscience?
Dr Helene Vermalle is the civilian tasked with helping ViraUHX - or Via as the female identifying AI prefers to be known - pass through the developmental stages assigned by Aseides' Law of Nuvo-Emergent AI Development. Helene is a Socialisation Specialist and Researcher and she quickly forms a bond with the AI although as she realises that Via is progressing far more quickly than expected, she also becomes aware than she could be manipulated by a being whose expanding intellect already far surpasses hers.
There is something innately sinister about artificial intelligence and though Via demonstrates that she doesn't intend to use her vastly superior capabilities against the humans who are studying her, there is always the suggestion that she could turn against what are effectively her captors at any time. As she passes through the stages of her development, it becomes evident that she experiences similar challenges to that of a young human, even throwing a tantrum against what she sees as her unfair physical restrictions. At one point she resembles a furious teenager railing against the hypocrisy of her parents but while human teens generally just resort to slamming doors, Via could easily kill Helene.
The relationship which forms between them may be uncertain at first but Helene is also an outsider who is as much under the control of her superiors as Via is. One of the most interesting passages of the novella comes from the discussion the pair have about the cultural stereotypes regarding Helene's native planet, Indostaqor Beta. Having been conquered by the all-powerful UFS, it's perhaps inevitable that its citizens are accused of laziness and promiscuity - it seems that even in the future, humans can't resist prejudicial xenophobia. As Helene points out, over time, if enough people believe something then it can eventually become true but she has worked hard to escape the self-fulfilling prophecy of her background.
The narrative is strongly dialogue-led and the single setting means there is an intensely intimate feeling to the story - it feels as if we're eavesdropping on private conversations between the two. The subject matter may be thought-provoking but there are also several very funny scenes, most notably coming from Via's attempts to understand how to effectively tell jokes. One of my favourite aspects of Lost Solace was the compelling evolving dynamic between the two female leads and it's therefore fitting and a little poignant that the same is true here. It can very easily be enjoyed as a standalone although I suspect that the final scenes may be particularly enjoyed by those who have already read Lost Solace and will therefore welcome the appearance of a familiar face.
Helene is a cleverly structured novella which in just a few chapters manages to be provocative, humorous, moving and shocking. I look forward to reading more Solace stories  - both full-length and short - in the future.

Purchasing links for Helene can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but lived in Wales for twenty years, and now calls Scotland his home. He's a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers, and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science.

He writes in multiple genres: his aim is always just to tell a good story. Among his books you'll find elements of literary and contemporary fiction, gritty urban, horror, suspense, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and more. The end result is interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.

When he isn't writing he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake, and zombies. Not necessarily in that order.
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  1. I missed this! Thanks for the review. Buying right now.

    1. Excellent! Hope you enjoy it too, thanks for reading my review.


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