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A thoughtful, poignant novel that explores the creation of Artificial Intelligenceilluminating the very human need for communication, connection, and understanding.
In a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century, to a correctional institute in Texas in the near future, and told from the perspectives of five very different characters, Speak considers what it means to be human, and what it means to be less than fully alive.
A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friends mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls.
Each of these characters is attempting to communicate across gapsto estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or a computer program that may or may not understand them. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and humanshrinking rapidly with todays technological advancesechoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.
An Amazon Best Book of July 2015: Because of Speaks structure, it will draw comparisons to David Mitchells Cloud Atlasbut thats selling both authors a little short. Speak is told from multiple points of view, mostly through letters and transcripts, but the voices accrue to present a profound and illuminating whole. This is a smart book, and Louisa Hall is tackling some big questions, namely what does it mean to be human? She builds her novel with characters collected through timefrom an early pilgrim trapped in an unhappy marriage, to Alan Turing writing letters to a friends mother, to a 2040 Silicon Valley prodigy incarcerated for designing a babybot with illegal levels of artificial intelligenceand by doing so she draws out the shrinking gap that separates us (for now) from our rapidly encroaching technology, as well as the gaps that have always existed between us. This is a sensitive, beautiful, and timely novel that measures our very human need to speak against our possibly more vital need to be heard. Put down your phone for a while and read it. Chris Schluep