It’s a tough thing to admit when you pick up a book you’ve been really looking forward to and it doesn’t hit the spot. Yet that’s what happened with Scott Meyer’s Run Program, his latest book in a new setting, and one that looks at what a child-like A.I. will do when given access to the internet and the chance to escape its confines.
From the author of the popular Magic 2.0 series comes the witty tale of a mischievous A.I. gone rogue.
Al, a well-meaning but impish artificial intelligence, has the mind of a six-year-old and a penchant for tantrums. And the first one to discover just how much trouble Al could cause is Hope Takeda, the lab assistant in charge of educating and socializing him. Day care is a lot more difficult when your kid is an evolving and easily frightened A.I.
When Al manages to access the Internet and escape the lab days before his official unveiling, Hope and her team embark on a mission to contain him—before he creates any real problems.
Soon the NSA is on Al’s back, the US Army is fighting a brigade of mass-produced robots, and a wannabe cyberterrorist is looking to silence Al permanently. After months spent “raising” Al, Hope knows she’s running out of time—and she’s not sure she’ll be able to protect him. Will she manage to control the unruly A.I. and quell a global crisis, or will Al outsmart them once and for all?
While the A.I. gone rogue storyline has been done plenty of times over the years, Meyer does bring some originality to the idea with his take on it. Al, the child-like A.I. that Run Program focuses on, is a perfect vehicle to allow for some of Meyer’s witty and amusing dialogue and scenes to shine through and highlight just what makes him such a readable author, yet it somehow isn’t quite enough. While Hope and Eric, the two lab assistants that are educating Al, are nicely balanced characters, others seem either interchangeable or expected, with no real surprises.
The story is fun, yet it also falters at times. While there are some really enjoyable aspects and set pieces, the narrative does jump in order to keep the momentum up, though not always successfully. The ending can be seen from early on, and it’s a wonder that these characters don’t get their sums right and figure out what is happening. It’s a shame, because there is much potential here.
Meyer is best when poking fun at genre tropes, bringing amusing and interesting ideas to the table and delivering them with panache. Run Program has aspects of all of these traits throughout, but it seems to want to be a more traditional SF novel at times, and this doesn’t quite gel as well is it could. Ultimately this was a fun and enjoyable read despite the issues I had, but it’s unfortunately forgetful.