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Author: Tony Ballantyne
Publisher: Tor, 2008
Bantam Spectra, 2007
Series: The Recursion Trilogy: Book 3

1. Recursion
2. Capacity
3. Divergence

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Artificial Intelligence
Avg Member Rating:
(6 reads / 4 ratings)


After a tumultuous beginning, mid-23rd-century Earth now peacefully operates under the constant surveillance of the Watcher, an all-seeing AI who has seized control of the planet-and of the minds and bodies of its people. But is the radical evolution that the Watcher has in mind a step forward or the beginning of a mighty split that will cast aside everything that truly makes us human?

It is 2252, and Judy is traveling on a passenger ship in deep space when disaster strikes. Almost too conveniently, strange machines appear onboard just in time to help. They are owned by DIANA, a commercial organization headquartered on Earth. But as the machines arrange for the humans to be taken to safety, Judy is held back. They have detected something in her genetic code-something shocking: Judy is not human. And she too is the property of DIANA.

Now Judy must return to Earth to find out what DIANA expects of her…how she was grown…and why she was destined to destroy the Watcher. But is this Judy even the same person? And does the new Judy have a reason to destroy-or is she just a pawn in someone else’s murderous game?


Edward 1: 2252

There was an argument taking place on board the Eva Rye, but then again they had been arguing on board the Eva Rye since the ship had left Garvey's World. "It's a robot. It houses an intelligence, it's mobile: it's a robot."

"Why would a robot be floating in space? It's got to be a ship. A small one."

"I keep telling you, it's a self-replicator, and it's trying to trap us. Let it on board and it will convert our ship to copies of itself. We'll all be left swimming through vacuum." Edward sat on the hessian matting that made up part of the patchwork floor of the spaceship's lounge and tried to follow what was going on. Ever since the Stranger had first made contact, and everyone had been summoned to the gaudy living area, the same argument had been sloshing back and forth. It wasn't a new argument, just a natural development of the same one that had thrived on the Eva Rye for the past five weeks, given new life by the distress call they had picked up. After about an hour of Donny's bitterness and Armstrong's belligerence, Craig had brought Edward a glass of apple juice and had tried to explain what they were all shouting about, but Saskia had chosen that moment to mention Edward's sister again and another favorite quarrel had been added to the stew. The only one who had maintained his temper was the Stranger himself. His image could be seen in the viewing field that had been opened up in the middle of the conference room.

"Eva Rye, why do you keep arguing? All I want from you is delta vee. It's a common enough request. You are a trading ship, aren't you?" There was an edge to the Stranger's question that achieved something that none of the crew of the Eva Rye had managed in their one hundred and forty minutes of bitter debate. It brought silence to the room. Ten bodies paused just outside the circle of light in which the Stranger floated, his shape a grainy letter x pushed to maximum resolution by the radio telescope. The picture was an embarrassment to the technology that should be available to the ship, but it was the best image that could be achieved with the long-range senses off-line and the self-repair mechanisms still malfunctioning. In the hushed silence, Edward looked up at Craig.

"What's happened?" he whispered. Craig took a break from glaring daggers at Saskia just long enough to whisper: "Nothing yet. The Stranger just reminded us who we are. This can't take much longer, Eddie. Shh. Michel's going to speak."

Michel blinked in the dim light, not so much speaking as refereeing his own indecisiveness.

"Okay," he said, finally getting to the point in the mental debate that jammed up his head, "we could argue about this for another hour, but all the time the Stranger would just get farther away from us. I propose we put this to a vote."

"A vote?" Saskia queried in tones of mild surprise. Edward shivered. Saskia may have been Craig's sister, but he still didn't like her that much. Especially when she spoke like that; especially sitting back as she was in the stripiest of the three stripey chairs, letting her shiny aubergine-black hair fall forward to cover her eyes; especially when her words were so quiet and reasonable.

"One of your jobs as our leader is to make decisions," she said, ever so mildly.

"You should ask your specialists for their opinions and then tell us what to do." Michel rubbed his head.

"I know, I know. I was coming to that. Armstrong, what do you think?" Armstrong was sitting at the stone-and-copper dinner table, three carbon-bladed knives resting before him. His fingernails were stained black from the soft block of carbon that he was rubbing into a fourth tiny blade, growing it into a beautiful curved panga that Edward had been regarding with a wistful expression. Sometimes Armstrong let Edward hold the knives, and Edward would swoop and swish them through the air, listening to the clean sound they made. Edward wished that he could hold Armstrong's knives more often. They felt good in the hand, balanced and powerful-just like Armstrong. Armstrong always waited until he had everyone's full attention before speaking. He did so now, giving the panga a last slow wipe of the carbon block.

"I say we make contact," he growled, pointing the embryonic knife towards the object floating in the viewing field. "Like that thing says, we're a trading ship. If we run away from everything new, we'll never get to trade anything."

"Armstrong's right," agreed Maurice. He leaned back on his chair, his padded combat jacket open to the waist, just like Armstrong's. "We've got to take a few risks."

"Thank you for your opinion, Maurice," said Donny sarcastically. "Michel, we've only been a trading ship for five weeks. Who's to say what's correct behavior in these circumstances?" Donny's two children, Jack and Emily, were playing at his feet, their presence tolerated in the room because it was the only thing that could sweeten Donny's poisonous bitterness at his wife's desertion. The children were sending their dolls into the kitchen area to collect last week's grapes from a bowl set on the floor there. The dolls carried the wizened fruit back on little silver plates for a miniature tea party. Edward would have loved to join the game, but Donny had told him more than once that he was too old. Michel looked as if he was getting a headache. He had one hand to his temple, his eyes closed as he tried to make a decision.

"I know, Donny, I know. What is the correct behavior in these circumstances?" He turned to Craig's sister, sitting, as always, right beside him. "Saskia, what do you think?" Edward wasn't happy to see Saskia tilt her head again so that her straight dark hair fell around her face, hiding her eyes. Her reply came in her mildest tones, making Edward want to retreat into a dark corner and hide. "It's not for me to say what I think, Michel," she murmured. "You're the commander. This is not the place from where I would make a decision. If it had been down to me, I'd have stayed at the edge of the old Enemy Domain. I wouldn't have taken us out of human space completely."

"People, people, why do you keep arguing?" The grainy shape in the viewing field was moving, forming shapes at the edge of recognition. Everyone leaned closer, trying to make out what they were dealing with. For over two hours they had gazed at the Stranger, trying to guess what he was. "Listen," he said. "I have the capacity to trade through Kelvin's Paradigm, the Northern Protocol, and 1.66. I don't understand why you keep talking about risk."

"Do you have FE software?" called out Joanne, not quite concealing the edge of impatience in her voice. "Joanne," said Saskia, "I thought we agreed, all communications go through Michel." "It's okay," said Michel, withering under the glares of both women. "It's a good question. Do you have FE, Stranger?"

"FE?" said the Stranger, in some surprise.

"Yes, I have Fair Exchange software, though I have not used it in some time. This explains something about your behavior: you are new to the trade game, are you not?"

"Don't tell him anything," hissed Armstrong. "Why not?" asked Joanne, reasonably. "Like the Stranger said, we're perfectly safe if we use the FE software. We're guaranteed a Fair Exchange. That's what it's for, isn't it?" Edward had never quite understood exactly what the FE software did. All he knew was that it was responsible for him leaving his home on Garvey's World and flying off on this spaceship. It had meant leaving behind his sister, Caroline. He thought of her standing outside the patchwork hull of the Eva Rye, trying not to cry as she gave him a hug.

"Here you are, Edward," she had said, handing him a plaited bracelet made of n-strings. "This is to remind you of me." She held up her own wrist, showing an identical bracelet there. "See, I have one, too."

"Where's Dad?" Edward had asked, looking around the bleak greyness of the landing field. "He's off with Mum, working. They'll still be out in the fields, scanning for venumb infestations."

"Dad doesn't want me to go."

"I know, Edward. But this is for the best. If what they say is happening on Earth is true, then the sooner you're away from here, the better." Safe in the near darkness close to the floor, Edward ran a finger along the bracelet, feeling the strange slippery surface of the n-strings. He thought of Caroline's parting words.

"Listen, Edward. I know you're not very clever, but you've always done your best to be a good boy. You need to be a good boy now. You've heard the rumors: the Dark Plants are spreading, and they say the Watcher is calling everyone back home to Earth for their own safety, starting with the most helpless. And that means you. I really don't know what to do. But they say that the trade ships are safe. The Fair Exchange software guarantees that nobody can be cheated. Well, I hope so. I've bought you passage on the Eva Rye." A cold look came into her eyes, thin as the misty rain that filled the dull green valleys of Garvey's World.

"Are you okay, Caroline?" She gave him a sudden, fierce hug. He kissed her on the cheek and she smiled at him. "Now get on board. Quickly." And before Edward had had a last chance to look around the grey, rain-sodden hills, she had pushed him up the rainbow-striped staircase into the hatchway of the spaceship. That had been three weeks ago. Since then Edward had wandered the multicolored corridors of the ship, trying to make sense of his new situation. The Eva Rye was not a happy place: there was no peace or harmony to be found anywhere on board...

Copyright © 2007 by Tony Ballantyne


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