Twisted Metal – Tony Ballantyne

When robots make a child together the husband provides the wire for the wife to twist into the shape of their child’s mind. The wife can choose much of the shape she twists, much is inherent in her, unconscious, and there may even be fragments of the The Book of Robots in there too. The wealthy ‘free’ society of the Turing robots is threatened by the quite familiar collective of Artemesia, who believe there is only metal and the individual is unimportant (yup, the state is all). Artemesia is on the move, destroying societies, torturing and murdering citizens and then melting them down to make more citizens of its own, if not transplanting their minds into common machinery. Robots originally generated from deep in the ground and some still do so now. Or is that really true? You can feel sure that if there’s talk of watchmakers (or blind watchmakers) here the whole debate has been turned on its head.

So we’ve got nature vs nurture in the larger quandary about free will and predestination; we’ve got a Communist’s wet dream of a society because the one thing that can’t be changed in our world, can here, because the minds can be made to fit the ideology; we’ve got an inversion of the kind of arguments with which Richard Dawkins and the Intelligent Design crowd would feel at home, all set in a world populated by robots engaged in the familiar human pastime of murdering each other for power, but excusing it with dogma. Plenty of twisted metal here, usually in the smouldering ruins of of the next city state the Artemesians have torn apart. So what more could you want? The next book please Mr Ballantyne.

There’s so much implicit in the title of this book, which hints at the philosophical layers underlying but not undermining rip-snorting robot total war. A thumping good read.

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