high ticket, obsessed & adrift
When we first see Laura Bow, she’s a lonely adolescent, self-harming with a lighted match. She’s talking by email with a friend in the US. She’s already a coder, already hooked by the urgency and excitement of a conversation that only exists between her and the computer. It’s the 1990s, and dial-up connections still make a noise like an animal in pain, and she’s just added another £150 to her parents’ phone bill. Thereafter, James Smythe slices her life for us at ten-year intervals. By 2007, things are out of hand: she’s a high-ticket professional, obsessed and simultaneously adrift–we see her in that classic old-fashioned hacker-movie style, running panickily down a line of servers in a Palo Alto corporate, trying to retrieve a deteriorating situation. 2017, she’s running down a street in Kuala Lumpur in the rain, thirty-seven years old now and pregnant. All this time she’s been building an artificial intelligence.
My review of James Smythe’s excellent AI thriller I Still Dream, in the Times Literary Supplement today (£).