Author: Ali Blank
Publication date: August 10, 2020
Genre: Science Fiction
One Sentence Summary: The AI New Babylon is going through an update and has transferred all it’s knowledge into a human, a human numerous people and groups are now out to uncover.
I’m not a big fan of science fiction because science is not my forte and most of it tends to go over my head. But I can’t stop the intrigue I feel whenever I’m face-to-face with a sci-fi novel. I guess I enjoy torturing myself. Anyways, Transition Keeper is one of those sci-fis that just went right over my head. I wanted to read it because I was fascinated by the idea of an AI transferring all of it’s knowledge into a human vessel, and that numerous organizations and individuals were racing to figure out who she was. I thought it would turn out one way, but this book completely surprised me.
The Plot: A Little Overwhelming
Years ago, with the help of very capable people, the General built an AI called New Babylon. Designed to keep the world in balance, it goes through updates. Currently, it’s set to go through the twelfth, during which all of it’s knowledge will be transferred into a human for the first time. Called the Transition Keeper, it was designed so no one would know who the human would be, only that it would be a woman.
It starts off easily enough, with two cousins, the General and the Bishop, having a nice chat. There doesn’t seem to be any urgency in finding the Transition Keeper, except more players are added to the board. They’re looking for her for their own purposes, whether to use her or destroy her. And it all returns back to a woman from both men’s pasts, Margaret Evans.
To be honest, I had a bit of a hard time figuring this book out. The description made me think it was a fast-paced, action-filled book about the search for the Transition Keeper by various groups across the world. While reading it, I got a more cerebral experience during which it felt like it took quite a while to build up to what was going on, and there wasn’t nearly as much mad hunting for the Transition Keeper as I had expected. Instead, there’s quite a bit of name dropping and various asides into what felt like irrelevant information that made me lose the thread of what was going on in the scene.
I did like that Transition Keeper discussed the general development of the AI and how it functioned, but I’m also at a loss as to how it was able to move it’s knowledge bank into a person. The end takes care of it nicely, but I was kind of confused throughout the book. While I don’t feel I got a handle on the story, exactly, I still had fun gallivanting around Europe and poking and prodding at the present and the past. It was a well-rounded experience, but I’m afraid too much of it went over my head. Though I imagine it would make for a fun, slow, reread one day.
The Characters: Fascinatingly Interconnected
There are a few key characters the reader gets to know throughout Transition Keeper. They’re all in some way related to each other. Actually, the realizations of exactly how connected they were was the really fun part. The one thing that bothered me a bit was they didn’t exactly feel unique or terribly different from each other. They played different roles, did different things, but they came off in very similar ways. There’s a lot of thinking going on, a lot of information being thrown around, and they all had similar manners of speaking, so, when they were having conversations, it was sometimes difficult to tell who was saying what. Somehow, though, my brain figured it out and it managed to make sense by the end of the conversation.
I was quite fascinated by Alice. She’s young when she first appears on the pages, but is wise beyond her years. She’s surprisingly mature with an incredible well of knowledge. At first, it felt a little strange, but made more sense the further I read. Margaret was also interesting and quite intelligent, though she wasn’t actually seen much, and that mostly in flashbacks. Of all the characters, she felt the most different as she was perpetually cool and logical, but I like to think she had a heart under the ice.
The men didn’t feel quite as intelligent as Alice and Margret and, honestly, they kind of blended together for me so I had a hard time keeping them straight. I did find the relationship between the General and the Bishop to be interesting, but it felt like it was at arm’s length so it was more of a curious thing than anything else. I was tickled by how very British they felt. At the same time, the utter properness they displayed kept me from connecting to them even though the General and his former employee Simon seemed to have the most page time.
The Setting: Across Europe
Most of Transition Keeper takes place in London where New Babylon is situated and looked after by the General, but it also takes the reader across Europe, and a bit beyond. The reader is also flung back and forth through time as earlier times are presented, but no clear dates are given; it’s kind of up to the reader to order all of the flashbacks and loop it back into what’s going on in the present.
It was fun to travel to so many different places, all of which felt a little different from each other, but did little more than present a different canvas at different points in the story. London felt the most anchored as the characters traveled around the city and stopped at various places. Since most the book is spent in London, it makes sense it was the most developed. Still, it was fun to travel around Europe throughout the book, and it helped anchor the idea that various groups are looking for the Transition Keeper.
Overall: A Really Interesting Concept
Transition Keeper was a very interesting read. It was surprisingly cerebral when I had expected something with less thinking and more doing. I struggled to connect to the story and the characters, but it did feel like a lot of thinking and careful consideration had been put into the story. The weirdest part of reading it was I felt like all the useful information bits had been stripped out and a lot of details irrelevant to the story had been left in, making it feel a little incomplete. Or perhaps it was just my lack of ability to really understand this book. In a weird way, it reminded me of reading On the Origin of Species in that it was very detached and formal, providing information but making it feel stilted and almost inaccessible. Still, I loved the concept and loved being caught up in the story, even if I only had a clue of what was going on now and then.
Great if you enjoy: cerebral reads; informative books; science fiction; AI; intellectual characters; plot-driven stories
Not great if you’re looking for: easy reads; fast-paced, action-packed novels
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Thank you to author Ali Blank and Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.