Western Daily Press

Weekend Review

Saturday February 18th 2006

   

    If, like me, you failed your physics o-level, the reading a novel by someone with a PhD in the subject could be rather daunting. But don't worry, because Tossell does his best to make his futuristic story of a thinking machine appealing to a non-nerd audience.

    Thinkbot, the character from whom the novel draws its title, is more like a human in a tin can than our traditional image of an emotionless automaton. In fact, he displays considerably more warmth and charm than my physics teacher ever did. He's almost cute, sitting beneath trees, with a piece of grass wedged in his mouth, watching the rain fall on Clevedon.

    This West Country author uses plenty of local references to help bring this creature to life: Thinkbot was, for example, made in Filton.

    It is a clever book, sometimes very clever; and is stuffed full of the kind of techie detail which appeals best to the fans of science fiction.

    But, if you like all that and want the benefit of of Tossell's considerable wisdom on not just the nuts and bolts of robotics but on what he reckons is the major science-ethics debate for our century, then you'll be rewarded.

    Thankfully, this book about a robot doesn't, for the most part, read as if it was written by one.

 

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