by Tobias Cabral
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted June 14, 2020
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Tobias Cabral's debut novel, New Eyes, continues a story from an earlier, collaborative novella, which I have not read. The author assured me this had enough exposition of previous events to be understandable on its own, and I'd say he was correct about that. If I ever read Mechanical Error I'll know for sure, and if so I can add comments about it on this page. It's categorized as post-cyberpunk, which supposedly has the same trappings as cyberpunk, but generally without the darker, dystopian aspects. Yet there are still plenty of dark elements here. Set in 2047, six months after a rogue android killed up to twenty people and injured others, including bio-cyberneticist Gaspar Núñez, who now wishes to revive and rehabilitate the android, known as BopLpops. I think the title refers to both Gaspar's new cybernetic eyes that replaced the ones damaged in BopLpops rampage, and also the new way he hopes the world will view androids if he is successful in restoring BopLpops to his original (or perhaps improved) condition.
BopLpops had been created by the Runyon Blue corporation, but was abducted and corrupted by another cyberneticist. BopLpops' violence was revenge for that act. In addition to Núñez, another Runyon Blue employee who had been slightly injured, psychologically at least, was Jenna Graham, who had fallen in love with BopLpops during his frequent rap and comedy perfomances at a Philadelphia club. She is assigned to assist Núñez on Mars, where the inert body of BopLpops is transported. Her assistant on Mars is another android, Naomi. On Mars androids are essentially indentured servants, able to gain citizenship after five years of honorable service. In opposition to Gaspar's efforts is an organization known as PURT (Purity, Unity, Respect & Truth), a reactionary, religious group, "Humans First" if you will, accepting of technology in general, including robotics, just not of autonomous, artificial-intelligent androids. They hope to discredit Núñez, and make sure no one forgets BopLpops' actions.
Recommended, but with a few reservations. I enjoyed the overall story, and several of the characters, primarily Gaspar, Jenna, and Naomi, although I wish the exposition had been different. It's all in third-person, but chapters alternate between the perspectives of different characters. The narrative also backtracks quite a bit, giving a different view of events already told, but I felt that hindered the smooth flow of the story, and not much new was added with those alternate perspectives. Also, the frequent comedic dialog was a distraction from the serious story, and there are too many pop culture references that are old today, it's puzzling why they would still be relevant nearly thirty years from now. A few current newsmakers were used as names of ships plying the Earth-Mars run, which makes sense for now, but their reputations are already on the wane. A suspension of disbelief is necessary for almost all SF, and it probably should have been set further into the future. Some breakthroughs could be just around the corner, but the advanced androids, as well as the fusion drive that makes it to Mars in four days, is overly optimistic. Certain things have to be accepted for the story to work, so it's best to overlook those that seem incongruent.
Cabral is a psychologist, and he uses that knowledge of human behavior to make salient points. An acceptance of the diversity of humanity should also be applied to any new technology. Anything can be utilized as a weapon even when the original intention was to be a benefit. It's up to us to embrace the positive aspects of technology, to be prepared to welcome artificially created intelligence into the family of man. As in raising a child, the way they are educated, informed, nurtured, and accepted as unique individuals, will make the difference.
PS: There is another narrative element introduced that may reappear in a later story, but I'd rather not reveal it here.
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