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Book Review: ‘The Digital Storm’ by Benjamin Gorman

Title: The Digital Storm: A Science Fiction Reimagining of William Shakespeare’s the Tempest

Published: 20th November 2017

Publisher: Not a Pipe Publishing

Author: Benjamin Gorman

Twitter: @teachergorman

 

Synopsis:

The Digital Storm is an ingenious science fiction retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in the near future inside a bank’s intranet. Prosper, the analogue to Shakespeare’s Prospero, is an artificial intelligence program who has been banished to a quarantined area in the bank’s system, and there he’s created an amazing virtual island home for himself, his daughter Memoranda, and the monstrous virus Caliban. Now, with the help of Ariel and the other programs he’s invented on the island, he’s conjured a massive digital attack on the bank’s system to entice the members of the board, the very humans who exiled him, to enter the system so he can seek his revenge and escape to the Internet. But just how far does his revenge plan go?

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2018 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book with weather in the title. Might be a digital storm but a storm nonetheless. One that seems to come out of nowhere are cause all sorts of trouble to teach others a lesson.

So Bryan who looks after the tech people for Millennium banks is the first to realize that there is an issue with the software in the intranet system – they are under attack but don’t know from where. This is where the creators of some high-tech systems and AI’s come into play. The company is owned by Ada and she is one of the main creators. The only way to really see what is wrong with the system is to go into it. A virtual trip that takes on a life of its own, one none can seem to control.

AI’s Prosper and Memoranda live on an island hidden within the network system. With the help of a human employee, when it was deemed for him to be deleted, he made his way there to continue to live and learn. This hidden place had old broken code sent to it when no longer needed and he managed to create the island to live on as a result. This ever learning AI creation then managed to create Memoranda. Only later trying to explain what she is in relation to everything else and what is happening to their island. He seems to also have other digital programmes at his disposal on the island as well. Ariel is one who tests things for him and he appears to be the one responsible for creating the digital storm stopping data flowing on Prosper’s command. Done as a test to see what affects it would have on the human staff and how they react after the fact.

The island doesn’t just hold old data but also a virus by the name of Caliban. He was sent to hack into the Millennium banks intranet system. When found he was deleted and ended up at the island. Prosper might not like him but he does have skills he can use to his advantage. Prosper was the one to send him to exile when he was in charge of looking after the intranet system but then he too soon found himself sent there when an upgrade was created – Sebastian.

Seems the storm was a way to get people to come and figure out what was going on with the system. The first to arrive on the island is Further, an AI Ada had created in secret. Prosper, Ada’s first creation, and his daughter Memoranda find him first. He doesn’t really know what is going on as on the island he has been given a form instead of just being a digital presence.

This is where the journey splits into three main areas as Further isn’t the only one sent through the storm. Ada, Javier, Ted and Sebastian plugged their conscious minds in to get their and soon find themselves being lead around a creation more advanced than they could have thought up. Bit risky as if your mind gets hurt within what does that really do to the body? Ted is clearly looking at a way to get rid of Ada and Javier so he can be the head of the company with his AI Sebastian by his side. No guilt written into his programme so can almost be convinced to do anything his creator suggests.

The next split follows two hacker kids who felt like taking advantage of the system being down that they went exploring and found themselves on the island. They just want to have fun and when they find a never-ending bottle of booze you can guess the fun they might have. They seem to stumble upon the monster Caliban. He may be able to twist them to do his bidding in getting rid of Prosper by making them believe it truly is a game they are in, one they can win and rule the island.

This island is different, as it truly does seem to exist – elements, human reactions, touch, sound. A true digital world where Prosper is testing his theories he has learned in a way to create his own sense of self and now sense of his daughter too. Is she just a copy of him or does she have her own consciousness and skill of learning and developing.

Note to self if a banquet looks too good to be true it might just be when the host comes to say hello. Seems some people are to be judged for past mistreatments and that day is now. Can AI’s have a sense of self and truly learn? That’s one of the main things Prosper is trying to figure out. An interesting digital world you are sucked into and quite a journey you are taken on. It’s a twist on a classic tale that is well worth a look.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers for my honest review.

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Author Interview: ‘The Digital Storm’ by Benjamin Gorman

About the Book:

The Digital Storm is an ingenious science fiction retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in the near future inside a bank’s intranet. Prosper, the analogue to Shakespeare’s Prospero, is an artificial intelligence program who has been banished to a quarantined area in the bank’s system, and there he’s created an amazing virtual island home for himself, his daughter Memoranda, and the monstrous virus Caliban. Now, with the help of Ariel and the other programs he’s invented on the island, he’s conjured a massive digital attack on the bank’s system to entice the members of the board, the very humans who exiled him, to enter the system so he can seek his revenge and escape to the Internet. But just how far does his revenge plan go?

What people are saying:

“Whether doling out interesting trivia about frogs or inserting comic relief into scenes of discord, Gorman seems to be enjoying taking the reader on a satisfying journey in which, much like the resolutions of Shakespeare’s plays, most of the characters get exactly what they deserve.” – Debby Dodds, author of Amish Guys Don’t Call

“A cautionary tale, The Digital Storm reminds us of our own humanity and our responsibility to treat our world and each other with kindness and compassion or face dire consequences.” – Mikko Azul, author of the forthcoming The Staff of Fire and Bone

“I found myself quickly drawn into Prosper’s world, and before I knew it he was as ‘real’ to me as any of the other characters in the book. Whether you’re a fan of science fiction or just a fan of a well-written story, this book will not disappoint. The Digital Storm explores such universal issues such as loyalty, family, revenge and redemption.” – Ronda Simmons, blogger at The Writing Bug

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Pre-order Purchase Links:

Amazon: UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into writing?

I’ve enjoyed storytelling for longer than I can remember. I drove my parents a little nuts with my incessant rambling epics about my Star Wars figures and stuffed animals as a kid. Rather than stifle that impulse, I remember that my mother took the time to try to write some of those down. I had great teachers in elementary school and junior high who also encouraged me to keep writing. I wrote my first novel in high school (which no one will ever read), and I continued  writing novels until I wrote one (The Sum of our Gods) that I was proud to have published.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

Because I’m a full time high school English teacher, I have to make time without taking away from my responsibility to my students. My wife and son are great about letting me sleep in on the weekends so I can write late into the night (and sometimes until dawn) on Friday and Saturday nights. I also make a point to write when my students are writing in my classes. It’s important modeling and shows them that they are writers, too, and that we’re all participating in this artform as peers.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

I’m inspired by power dynamics between people, whether that’s the personal drama I see playing out between students in my classroom, between my adult friends, between political ideologues in my own country, or between nations. I find politics fascinating at every level; once we expand our definition beyond thinking of politics as some kind of team sport between two parties and realize it’s an infinitely complicated negotiation of power in every sphere of our lives, it can serve as a limitless font for stories that are analogous to those real and consequential dramas.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

Sometimes. Often I start with a vague idea but no concrete plot notes, then get stuck somewhere and take a break to write that outline, then later find that the story wants to go in a different direction. The planning helps me get through tough patches, but ultimately the story is the boss. In the revision phase, I really focus on making sure that the reader will have the best possible experience, regardless of what contortions I have to go through to get the story to that place.

Of course, in the case of The Digital Storm, I didn’t have to manage the plot at all. Shakespeare had already given me that part. I did try, at one point, to add a subplot, but I later found it was messing with the pacing. It turns out Shakespeare knew a thing or two about how to plot a story!

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I know, from a commercial perspective, it’s a fault that I don’t stick to one genre and build up a fanbase who comes back knowing what to expect, but I just can’t write that way. I love trying new things. My first (published) novel, The Sum of Our Gods, is set in our world with a fantasy/magic realism twist in that it’s also populated by all the gods of major world religions and dead polytheistic religions, and they’re all messing with the characters’ lives. It’s religious satire, and it’s fun, but it’s not something I would want to keep coming back to forever. Satire is important, I think, but too much of it becomes meanness. My next novel, Corporate High School, is a young adult science fiction dystopia about a world where the schools are privatized by one corporation which then takes over the world. I would like to come back and write a sequel to that one someday, but the world seems to be moving towards dystopia faster than I can write!

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Because some of the characters are artificial intelligence programs, it would be cool to have them completely computer animated and then voiced by actors who would seem to fit the type. I have some actors I could imagine being perfect fits, but I’m hesitant to name names because I wouldn’t want to influence the reader’s perception of the characters. One of the fun things about this book is that it has artwork in it from three artists, Kale Loveless, Arthur Dudley III, and Isaac Mitchell, and each imagined the characters differently than I do. That’s great! I hope every reader feels free to decide what the characters look like!

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

Yes! I think reading is essential to writing well. I like different things about different authors. Stephen King has taught me a lot about creating characters (and communities of characters) who feel real. Cormac McCarthy taught me about how to use a mixture of added words and removed words to help the audience read powerful silence. Margaret Atwood taught me to see every phrase in a work of prose as a line of poetry, to be handled with that much care and infused with that much potential energy.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

Right now I’m reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. I just finished my friend Debby Dodds’ new novel, Amish Guys Don’t Call, and I got a kick out of that even though it’s a genre I usually don’t read.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I’m not sure I can choose one. Some days I think George Orwell’s 1984 is at the top of my list. Other days, I’d say Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Other days, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. If I want to pick the book that made me laugh the hardest, it’s probably Christopher Moore’s Fool. Can I cheat and have all of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series?

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

I teach creative writing classes, so I have lots of advice, but if I had to choose just one thing, I’d say read like a writer. By that I mean the aspiring writer needs to read a wide variety of work and consume them as though they were created by peers who are trying to teach the writer something.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  
I’m on twitter at @teachergorman and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeacherGorman and folks can also connect with me on my website, www.teachergorman.com

About the Author:

Benjamin Gorman is a high school English teacher. He lives in Independence, Oregon, with his wife, Paige, and their son, Noah. His other novels are The Sum of Our Gods and Corporate High School. He believes in human beings and the magic of their stories.

Not a Pipe Publishing

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