Emily Eternal by MG Wheaton

Posted On 22 April 2019

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HB_RoyalEmily Eternal is a really unusual book that even now I’m still mulling over.  For a book where the primary character is basically a computer programme this story has a lot of heart and is very thought provoking.  I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up and initially I thought I was going to struggle but then the story went in an unexpected direction and I became hooked on the drama that unfolded.

Emily is AC.  No, not air conditioning!  Artificial Consciousness as opposed to AI (Artificial Intelligence) which I guess is something that we’re more familiar with.  Emily’s primary aim is to help people, she’s a therapist if you will and her interactions over the years have helped her to develop the side of her that wants to help us in such a way that she really empathises over our current plight.  Put bluntly the sun is dying.  It’s not a new idea, it’s something that we’ve heard of and at the same time are powerless to do anything about and with the end of the sun will come the end of earth and the extinction of the human race.  So, you might be now thinking this is going to be one of those novels that sees the world spiralling into a terrible place, a dog eat dog place where morals and basic civility have flown out the window.  This book isn’t really about that, it takes a much more focused look in fact.  Emily is based on a university campus and her fame has reached the ears of others, those in power.  It is felt that Emily’s programming is so advanced that she could take steps to help prevent the total extinction of humans – I won’t tell you more but basically this is the basis of Emily Eternal.  How to survive an extinction level event – or at least, how to continue after it has occurred.

Like I said, Emily is a computer programme, in order to help her grow she is simulated and takes human form, she is visible and audible to people who wear or carry a certain chip with them.  She has been programmed so that she functions as a human, with her own personal rooms on campus.  She dresses, showers, eats, etc.  Well, she actually does none of those things strictly speaking, but she is programmed to go through the motions and behaving as a human and constantly interacting has given her a heightened sense of how people think and feel.

As far as characters go I thought Emily was a very easy to like pov.  What I particularly liked about her were her logical thought processes and her reasoning abilities.  It’s all very clever and I really did enjoy that aspect.  As the story progresses things change slightly.  We have a twist in the plot when it becomes apparent that things are not happening in the way promised and Emily effectively ends up on the run.  Which takes some thinking about when you consider that she’s intrinsically linked to a server and also, in order to be seen or heard requires a person to be ‘chipped’.  I’m not really going to mention more about the plot because there are a number of ways in which this story could be spoiled.

On top of this whole survival idea – and the rather creatively over the top ways that Emily comes up with to solve the extinction of mankind, there is also a love story.  Again I won’t say more about that other than to say that Emily does end up travelling with a couple of other characters who thankfully inject something a little more human into the story – it could otherwise have become a little AC focused.

What I really enjoyed about this story is the creativity, some of it does go a little, mmm, crazy/whacky at certain times, but overall this is really well thought out.  It’s well written and actually quite fascinating.  I liked Emily.  I liked the dilemma that she found herself in and her resourcefulness.  I liked that she cared and it raised all those issues of can a programme develop enough to ‘feel’.  There’s also a very good demonstration, and warning of sorts in here, about just what could go wrong.  A cautionary tale in some respects.

In terms of what I struggled with a little.  The beginning is a little slow and I almost came to a point of giving in with this, I’m glad that didn’t happen though.  I did find it difficult to get my head around Emily and the whole love affair.  I understand that the author is demonstrating Emily’s feelings for humans, her connection and also her advancement in that she can actually feel something – not least of all a crush, thereby showing how ‘human’ she has herself become – but, ultimately, I found it difficult to envision.  I also thought the ending was perhaps a little too much – although, again, I loved the idea of what was being explored here.

Overall, I thought this was a thought provoking book indeed.  It actually had quite a compelling story in terms of the survival aspects, which I really hadn’t expected, and it became quite a drama as the stakes were raised at the end. A story that begs the question ‘what next?’

I would definitely read more by this author.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



23 Responses to “Emily Eternal by MG Wheaton”

  1. dreamingofcats

    I love stories about AIs and I’m intrigued by this Artificial Consciousness and how that differs in practice from an AI. the notion of a romance does give me pause, I probably would’ve preferred wholly platonic relationships, but I’m still intrigued by this

    I don’t get why she’d need to be able to eat and drink and all the rest of it, like, she could just be programmed with the knowledge/memory of doing that? bit strange to me, but I’ll see if it makes more sense in the book!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, she doesn’t really eat or drink as such but her simulation goes through the motions. I think the idea was if she lived as a human with all the regular routines she would become more sensitive to them. So, for example, she could move about quite easily from place to place on the campus, literally materialising almost wherever she wanted to but instead she walks from place to place. It’s an interesting notion.

  2. Tammy

    This sounds like a great idea, and I love the fact that Emily is a compassionate AI, as opposed to one who makes logical decisions.

  3. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Artifical Conciousness sounds pretty interesting, though if the creativity goes a bit wacky, as you say, I might not love this one

    • @lynnsbooks

      It does go a little over the top in the second half, I can’t deny it.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    I’ve been interested in this one, it just seems like something I’d like. I like that you said it has heart because that’s something I look for. I’ll have to give this one a go. Great review, Lynn!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It did have heart – it’s a very unusual book although tbh I couldn’t get my head around the romance element of the story – will be interested to see if you fare better.
      Lynn 😀

  5. sjhigbee

    A great review, Lynn. I’m still mulling over this one, too. I thought it was a brave, ambitious book – though, sadly, I wasn’t as convinced by Emily as I wanted to be. That wretched romance didn’t do it for me… But I did enjoy the breadth and bravery that the author demonstrated.

    • @lynnsbooks

      The romance didn’t work for me either – I just couldn’t get my head round it. Otherwise I enjoyed this – a bit of a tale of two different parts really.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Well, this sounds interesting! Not sure that it would be for me, but I love the premise of a computer program as a protagonist!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was very well done. I liked the analytical elements – kind of reminded me a little of Theo from Mayne’s books.
      Lynn 😀

  7. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    What an interesting twist in the theme of artificial creations! Until now we always thought about artificial intelligence, but the concept of artificially constructed consciousness is indeed a different one and having it as the main character in a novel makes for an intriguing premise… Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a very intriguing tale – quite thought provoking.
      Lynn 😀

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  9. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    The idea of an artificial therapist of sorts is fascinating! And I’m curious about why an A.I. with with an emotional programming was chosen to help humans survive extinction!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a curious tale and I just read another review this morning that said it was like a story of two parts – which I agree with, the first is quite in depth, slow in a way – but not a bad way – and all about the character development and the second is quite wham bam, action and explosions. I did enjoy it – I had issues with certain points that I found difficult to grasp – like the romance, but overall thought it was a very thought provoking story.
      Lynn 😀

      • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

        I’m definitely having problems with the idea that nearly all the books in the world are people’s memories. But I’m really into the relationship bits!

      • @lynnsbooks

        I look forward very much to reading your thoughts.
        Lynn 😀

  10. bkfrgr

    This sounds very interesting … *grabs pen and starts scribbling* Thank you – hadn’t heard of it until you reviewed it. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is an unusual story – and also almost a story of two different parts. Quite thought provoking, I wasn’t sold on the romance elements but I liked all the theories and explanations.
      Lynn 😀

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