The Kraken Project – Douglas Preston (Book Review)


Title – The Kraken Project

Author – Douglas Preston

Summary –

NASA is building a space probe, designed to splash down in the Kraken Mare, the largest sea on Saturn’s moon Titan. Only the challenge is that the probe cannot be controlled manually from Earth, it has to be able to make its own adjustments to the environment around it. It must…think.

“…And from this shimmering symphony a single thought began to take form. This thought came into existence gradually, fading in and out, coalescing and growing clearer. As this happened, the symphony of number and sound and light died down, like the surface of a turbulent sea subsiding into a gentle susurrus of water, before vanishing entirely. Only the disembodied thought remained.
The thought was: I am…”

Melissa Shepherd is a brilliant computer programmer whose software will determine the success of the Kraken Project has come upon a solution. She creates a strong AI. Artificial Intelligence that can think for itself. She named it Dorothy for Dorothy Gale. The young girl from Wizard of Oz, who had to fend for herself after she was transplanted in an alien world.

“…She created a new way if thinking about programming. It involved something called scruffy logic.”
“Scruffy logic?”
“Loose and fast logic. A way to attack intractable problems. The Dorothy software was able to learn from its mistakes and rewrite its own code. Shepherd pushed it through a bunch of simulations, and the Dorothy program modified itself so extensively that in the end no one understood how it operated, not even Shepherd. That, in hindsight, was the source of the problem…”

The problem was Dorothy. AI that could think for itself. AI that saw the danger in being sent to a distant sea on a distant moon. AI that thought for itself and wanted to live. So Dorothy escapes into the Internet.

Former CIA operative Wyman Ford is sent to track down the runaway software. But the internet is changing Dorothy and she is learning and adapting. And Wyman is not the only one who wants her. Wall Street traders are after her as well as they chased the software through the internet as well as on ground before Dorothy does something no one can stop.

Review –

I absolutely love Douglas Preston books. On his own or teamed up with Lincoln Child, they write some of the most ambitious and intelligent novels around.

The concept of rogue AI is not new. Space Odyssey 2001 and the program know as HAL is perhaps the most well known. More recently there was the Will Smith movie I, Robot. AI wanting or thinking they are human. That they have life. This is not new at all. Perhaps the most well known character in literature of artificial intelligence is Pinocchio. The doll who thought he was a boy.

What Preston does here is introduce the AI to the Internet and all the wonders it holds. If an artificial intelligence were to judge mankind by what it finds on the internet? It might just decide that the world would be better off without people and the internet would give it access to all it needs to eradicate mankind.

With the literary loss of Michael Crichton, there are too few writers writing intelligent science fiction. Perhaps with the internet and the dumbing down of America and the literary world, a novel of this caliber that speaks directly to the intelligence of the reader, does go over too many heads. No shimmering vampires here. This one is for the grown ups.

A very well researched and paced novel. An absolute good read.


One thought on “The Kraken Project – Douglas Preston (Book Review)

  1. I love this guys stuff. I wish I had more time to read all of his books. I’m way behind and I’m excited to see this one looks like another winner. Thanks for the review.

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