Sunday, 10 April 2022

Lost Tales of Solace: Helene by Karl Drinkwater

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.

I haven't yet read any of the other Lost Solace universe universe novels so began reading Helene without any idea what happens outside the heavily guarded hanger in which the novella is set. We soon learn that the eponymous Helene, Doctor Helene Vermalle, has the difficult task of guiding a far superior Artificial Intelligence mind. I liked how Karl Drinkwater created such a claustrophobic atmosphere for this battle of wits. Helene can never be sure whether the AI, which names herself Via, is truly developing a friendship or if she is manipulating Helene for some reason.  I enjoyed witnessing this uneasily developing relationship.

This novella ends with a lead into another storyline which I assume will become one of the Lost Solace full-length novels. Personally I would have preferred this not to have happened because I felt it upset Helene's overall balance (the novella, not the Doctor!). I hadn't been aware of missing pertinent knowledge until this point, but now I shall need to read further to find out how Helene's story fits into the bigger picture!

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