When the sparrow falls by Neil Sharpson is more than just another AI novel that questions what it means to be human. The story explores technology, complicity and authoritarianism in a future where artificial intelligence dominates all countries except the Caspian Republic (Eastern Europe).
I received a free ARC from When the sparrow falls from NetGalley in return for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
Security guard Nikolai South begins his story with an execution. He witnesses the hanging of a man, a rare occurrence in the Caspian Republic. Subsequently, South is tasked with chaperoning the man’s wife. But Widow Lily is a machine, resembling South’s late wife. So far South has been left alone, abiding by the rules of this supposedly AI-free sanctuary. This new series of events in his life will propel him to unearth a plot that, if revealed, could shatter the Caspian Republic.
Sharpson’s fluid prose reads like a lullaby, even if it keeps you awake. It focuses on small but important details like the leftovers of someone’s breakfast on their beard, or what a crowd looks like like unwashed potatoes. Sharpson breathes life into that future and South’s story arc. Not only are epigraphs included at the start of each chapter, offering a glimpse into how that future has manifested itself over time, atmospheric and vivid details paint a poignant portrait of the Caspian Republic and its citizens. Even when the story lingers on the history of this world, Sharpson manages to compel his audience with his attention to detail.
When the sparrow falls navigates the themes of AI consciousness and human supremacy. The Republic executed Lily’s husband because he turned out to be an AI, and Lily is now a target for the same reason as well. Nikolai and Lily’s character dynamics remind me of the 2002 movie Solaris and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. A personal story about memory and autonomy, When the sparrow falls offers a vision of a human future.
Released today, When the sparrow falls is available from Macmillian Publishers and Tor.
You can read an excerpt here.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) graduated in 2019 from the Masters program in Creative Writing at American University. They are Submission Editor for Uncanny Magazine. Their diverse areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, artificial intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ + portrayal in children’s media.
Pronouns: he / they
Location: DC Metropolitan Area
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