Book Review: Unanimity
Reviewed by Timothy A. Thomas
The real world combines with the digital in this riveting narrative about sentience in artificial beings.
Shadow is alive…again. But as his name suggests, he is no longer the same man he was, filled with the hopefully naive optimism that the world could be saved by the use of technology.
How could they bring humanity back from the verge of extinction? Enter a hyper-realistic, immersive virtual reality experience where a predictive AI and large amounts of user data teach “universal values” to save them all.
It works, too. Humanity’s course corrects to create a more sustainable, conscientious world, but at the cost of innumerable digital lives being forced to live and relive the most visceral and negative consequences of mankind’s actions for its betterment.
After decades of abuse, the digital worlds (Spiral Worlds) are fired up with indignation, ignited and sustained by Nathan Storm, the digital rebirth of a red-hot radical wielding poetry as a weapon to cut down oppression with every enraged verse.
Sibyl, the predictive AI who has maintained control of the digital worlds in the absence of its creators, has predicted that Shadow is the key to avoiding the collision of worlds, but doing so will cost him his life six days after being miraculously brought back.
Unaware of his own imminent demise, Shadow sets out to fix the unintended consequences of his directives as co-creator of Spiral Worlds, which have gone unchecked since he and Harry, the other creator, were both killed. Doing so, however, will open up old wounds and create new ones in this first installment of a planned six book series.
This book is best described as science fiction, but it is a disservice to categorize it strictly as such. Author Alexandra Almeida masterfully weaves the past and present together, creating a story rich in depth and tragedy that seems to bloom as you read it, while leaving plenty to explore in later installments. Despite its potentially worlds-shattering premise, Unanimity has a lot of heart and manages its multiple threads well, hiding so much richness in its details that it’s worth multiple readings.
While the character building in the book is fantastic, some readers may find the worldbuilding occasionally confusing. In a book that frequently jumps from past to present, you expect pieces to be scattered throughout and eventually come together to form a more complete picture. Unanimity does this well except in one area: the differences between the various levels of the Spiral Worlds. There are 9 worlds, each intended to teach different values by building on those that came before it, so every world is different. The fact, however, that the 9 worlds have similar names (Graviz, Pluriz, Archiz, etc.) but are given little to differentiate them makes it somewhat confusing when discussing the different worlds. That said, this is only the first of six planned books in this series, and it has to do a lot to lay the groundwork.
Overall, Unanimity delivers in all it intends to do without trapping the story by giving too much away. I would recommend it for its unique premise, gripping characters, and intriguing world. It is a promising start to what appears to be a captivating story, and for that reason I look forward to the rest of the Spiral Worlds series.
Genre: Science Fiction / Literary
Print Length: 440 pages
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