I was getting smug thinking I figured out where this book was taking me. And then last few pages came, and I all I was able to say was, "Heh. Ummm. Okay. Well, then. Heh." I know, my eloquence is astounding."The only thing binding individuals together is ideas. Ideas mutate, and spread; they change their hosts as much as their hosts change them." Normally I don't care much for spoilers. I can even pompously say that it's the journey I care about, not the destination. (Believe it or not, in the past I used to read the last page of the book before I started it from the beginning. I stopped doing that after I read the last page of "Dark Tower" - you King fans know what I mean!). But I heeded Jim's advice to go into this one completely unspoiled - and man, am I glad I did that! I guessed about half of the ending; but it's the OTHER un-guessed part that gutted me."Art was right. In the end, living is defined by dying. Bookended by oblivion, we are caught in the vice of terror, squeezed to bursting by the approaching end. Fear is ever-present, waiting to be called to the surface.Change brought fear, and fear brought destruction."But I can tell you this much about the plot without being spoiler-y in any way. It is set in the future where an aspiring young scholar Anax, in her attempt to join the legendary Academy, presents her research on Adam Forde, an important historical figure in this world. Oh, and there also is Art - that is, Artificial Intelligence.This book is told in quite an unconventional fashion. Its structure reminded me a bit of the books I've read for my Classics courses in college. Written as mostly a dialogue, an exposition about the events in which Adam was involved, it made me think of works such as Plato's Symposium (oh hey there, Plato! *waves*) - where tell, not show was how things were done. This particular structure, this tone set this story apart from others I've read recently, and give it a very distinct feel.And with that distinct feel and voice, this book proceeded to delve into philosophical matters, reminding me a bit of the college slightly-wine-fueled discussions about meaning of life and humanity and what it means to be alive, and all of that stuff that seems profound and frequently is, and is insanely difficult to voice in a coherent way (*). But apparently this was not an issue for this book - maybe because it took away the wine-fueled part ;)(*) Yes, in college I managed to hang out with the people with whom I could actually and seriously have these conversations. My college friends were amazing, I must say. UC Berkeley rocks (insert a mandatory "Go Bears!" here!) And they would have appreciated this book verily muchly."Unable to attribute misfortune to chance, unable to accept their ultimate insignificance within the greater scheme, the people looked for monsters in their midst.The more the media peddled fear, the more the people lost the ability to believe in one another. For every new ill that befell them, the media created an explanation, and the explanation always had a face and a name. The people came to fear even their closest neighbors. At the level of the individual, the community, and the nation, people sought signs of others' ill intentions; and everywhere they looked, they found them. for this is what looking does.That was the true challenge the people of this time faced. The challenge of trusting one another. And they fell short of this challenge."All I can really say is that I anticipated a very different turn of events. I was expecting quite a bit more moralistic conclusion, and was almost ready to be semi-disappointed by it, based on where I thought it was heading. And then I got blindsided. In a good way. And it made me think. Really use those thinking muscles. I could almost hear those rusty brain wheels and cogs squeaking - what are we, humans, really about? What makes us any different from machines? What makes us unique? Is there anything that makes us unique? Are we just full of prejudice when we want it to be so?"People did as they were told because they were working together, focused on a common threat, a shared enemy. But time passes. Fear becomes a memory. Terror becomes routine; it loses its grip."In its short 150 pages this book manages to touch on the issues of freedom, fear and unity in a society. It manages to explore consciousness and self-awareness. It touches on the questions of trust and betrayal. It addresses how we view and portray history, and how it may serve as a tool or a weapon. It explores the idea of Idea and its contagiousness. It shows that, as we often suspect, things are not what they seem to be. It shows us that there are consequences for that. And it has just the right amount of philosophy to be perfectly challenging and interesting."I can't comment on the minds of others. But I can say I believe it suits our purpose to make Adam the noble fool. This is always the problem with building heroes. To keep them pure, we must build them stupid. The world is built on compromise and uncertainty, and such a place is too complex for heroes to flourish."In a way this book reminded me - in spirit - of another book featuring AI that I've read this year - Valente's [b:Silently and Very Fast|12887497|Silently and Very Fast|Catherynne M. Valente|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1318737963s/12887497.jpg|18040996]. Now don't misunderstand me - these two books are different like night and day, but they share a common motif on intelligence and thinking and being alive, and take such different and yet equally thought-provoking approaches to it that it'd be very interesting to read them back-to-back. To those who haven't read either one of these, I'd recommend that.All this said, I'm very impressed by this book. I wish I could say more, but it's hard if I want to keep this review spoiler-free, and I fully intend to keep my promise on that. So I will just give it 4.5 stars and a heartfelt recommendation."Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile. It can be blackened by fear, by superstition."----And here is the link for the excellent review by Jim. Thanks, Jim, for bringing my attention to this one. And thanks, Catie, for sending this book to me. I owe both of you, guys!