So I read this post (which, as others have said, is more a threadbare and unconvincing synopsis than a review) and I thought, what the hell, the book looks halfway interesting. I followed the link, and noticed that this was a free ebook in HTML format.
The teaser (written in the classic dust-jacket tradition) reads:
"Lawrence had ordained that Prime Intellect could not, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. But he had not realized how much harm his super-intelligent creation could perceive, or what kind of action might be necessary to prevent it.
Caroline has been pulled from her deathbed into a brave new immortal Paradise where she can have anything she wants, except the sense that her life has meaning.
Now these two souls are headed for a confrontation which will force them to weigh matters of life and death before a machine that can remake -- or destroy -- the entire Universe. "
I read a couple of pages.
"Hmmm.." I think, "I have a few hours this afternoon in which some light reading might be nice." So I put on a pot of coffee, download the ebook to my Palm, and start reading.
Overall the novel has a fairly bleak feel to it. I found the main characters to be morose or morbid much of the time, though still compelling and believable. The book does have the feel of something that should have been a short story bloated into the length of a short novel.
Prime Intellect is the name of an AI supercomputer which suddenly and unforseeably attains super-human intelligence and vast quantum-mechanical control of the physical universe at the same time. In so doing, it attains a kind of godhood wherein it cures all of mankind's ills (including death), puts and end to all war and crime (including suicide), and sets out to grant every man's every whim.
In telling the story of Caroline, post-Prime-Intellect, (a large chunk of the novel), the book delves at length into an immortal orgy of death, sex, and authentic torture that seem gratuitious or placed for shock value. The prose invokes the lurid atmosphere of a snuff film or the feeling of watching a car wreck in slow-motion, at once disgusted and enthralled with what your mind is processing. The dynamic, driven, and intense nature of Caroline's character keep the reader intrigued throughout all of this, but it seems to provoke only for the sake of being provocative. On the positive side, experiencing these empty diversions firsthand, one does strongly identify with the sheer pointlessness of Caroline's life after she (and others) have had the aforementioned immortality thrust upon them.
Of greater fascination to me were the characters of Lawrence (the engineer who created Prime Intellect) and Prime Intellect itself. After the machine's apotheosis, the question that the book truly seeks to explore here is what happens when the three laws of robotics are used to rule not simply a robot, but a god, of our own creation.
When Caroline goes hunting down the other two main characters, either to finally end it all, or to break the monotony of her endless sensate flailings, take your pick, she threatens to set off a conflict which could plunge the entire universe into chaos.
I liked this novel, and had a good time reading it. I wouldn't quite rank it alongside Asimov, but it I found it enjoyable, well worth the time spent downloading and reading it. If you have a few extra hours (and preferably a good PDA or ebook reader), I'd recommend grabbing a copy.