Mar 022023

Booklist: Though the scale of Burke’s latest (after Immunity Index, 2021) is limited to the small island of Thule in the Arctic Circle, the conflict faced by the islanders takes on a large-scale feel. Antonio Moro is injured while firing missiles at war boats of the Leviathan League, recruited by mercenaries to be on the lookout for LL agents, and hired to create art for the chamber of commerce. He takes possession of the control cube of Par Augustus, an AI that has become independent, as a reward for his contest-winning sculpture. Because Moro is always polite to the various machine systems he encounters, Par Augustus introduces itself to him. Gradually this leads to befriending Chatelaine, the system that runs his employers’ home, and Prior Edifice, which runs the hospital. When the raiders threaten again, the merchants, who do a lot of trading of ExtraTs stored at the Xenological Gardens, and the Thules, pacifistic doctors who are the main government of the isle, differ on how to deal with them. Par Augustus has other ideas too, and Moro becomes his willing human accomplice. If Ursula LeGuin had written about AI machines, it would have looked a lot like this marvelous fable.