Victoria by John Molik takes us to a dystopian earth, some four-hundred-odd years in the future, where humanity is struggling to survive, with the help of AI (Artificial Intelligence). A massive solar Micronova in the twenty-first century had almost wiped out all life on Earth but the few survivors, aided by AI have rebuilt a world based on the precepts of Artificial Love. Everything is transparent now, nothing is hidden and humanity’s baser instincts are kept in check by a force of artificial, genetically enhanced beings who police this brave new world, along with a system of chemical suppressors and rote-sayings that keep the humans under control. Not all humans, however, have adapted to Victoria’s “perfect world”, though and deep in the Cheyanne Mountains a group of rebels known as MH (Metal Heads) who have had their brains encased in metal to avoid Victoria’s transmissions designed to make human’s compliant, plot her downfall. MH’s wish to worship their own deity, as represented by the martyred, Rodolpho and want nothing to do with the idea of the “electronic beasts” controlling their lives. When Victoria proposes to pass the “animal rights act” which would essentially put all animals on the same footing as humans, it proves to be one step too far for the MH’s who launch a terrorist attack on the capital city of Astana. Victoria must call on her loyal scientist Claressa and her boyfriend Pierre to try and thwart the MH attack and preserve her “perfect society”.
The premise behind Victoria is interesting and particularly relevant now as we move into a period of relying more and more on AI to assist us in our daily lives. As AI becomes more “sentient” and able to make decisions independent of humanity, what does that mean for us as a society? I think author John Molik explores this concept exceptionally well. The idea of an “extinction event” that tips the balance in favour of AI control is also something that many people consider a real possibility in today’s world. It wasn’t to much of a stretch to draw parallels between the MH and the Luds, to today’s climate of differing religious fundamentalism. I guess, mainly because I’m a New Zealander, I was pleasantly relieved to discover one of the survivalist colony was in New Zealand and the familiarity with the locale certainly enhanced my reading enjoyment of this story. The author’s style is simple and straightforward and his descriptions of the new technologies that have developed were easy to understand and grasp, even for this scientific-simpleton reader, which is always the sign of a good author. I particularly did enjoy the human emotions and desires that manifested within Victoria and the responses of the humans to them. It was easy, at times, to forget that she was just a collection of AI, as she clearly showed many human characteristics. Overall, this is a very readable and potentially prophetic story that will find a large fan base amongst dystopian and science fiction fans, both.