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BOOK REVIEW: Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

| 23 August 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

Hodder & Stoughton
April 2019
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Science Fiction / Artificial Intelligence / Oncoming Apocalypse

80% Rocking

Meet Emily – she can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets and even fix your truck’s air con, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.

She’s an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

So, her beloved human race is screwed, and so is Emily. That is, until she finds a potential answer buried deep in the human genome. But before her solution can be tested, her lab is brutally attacked, and Emily is forced to go on the run with two human companions – college student Jason and small-town Sheriff, Mayra.

As the sun’s death draws near, Emily and her friends must race against time to save humanity. But before long it becomes clear that it’s not only the species at stake, but also that which makes us most human.

Imagine a rapidly expanding balloon. Only, this balloon is on fire and devours everything in its path, including planets. While this inevitable outcome in the sun’s stellar life cycle was first predicted as far back as 1906, scientists in recent decades postulated it couldn’t possibly happen for another five billion years.

Going into this as one of the first books after the tragic and violent death of my beloved dog of 10.5 years, I wasn’t sure how well I would deal with a story in which everyone is doomed and grieving their own inevitable end. But it turns out that Emily offers just the right mix of understanding, emotion, and humour to make this a highly engaging read about one of the worst possible, realistic, and actually theorised apocalypses for Earth – the kind which is certain to wipe out almost all life, and which humans have no hope of fixing.

The only folks visiting campus these days are military or government types desperate to believe humanity’s answer lies with us.
We have the answer, just not the one that anyone wants to hear. Sorry, colonizing the moon does nothing at all; no, you can’t create an artificial atmosphere around Earth to keep out the sun’s increased radiation, and no – my favorite – you can’t open a wormhole and transport another yellow dwarf to our solar system to replace the sun.
The truth is this: humans can’t solve this one.

There’s plenty of darkness at the end of the world, as one would expect. As large swathes of people move to places they think will be safe, while others loot and start wars.

If anyone ever wondered if the apocalypse might finally cause the government to run out of Orwellian acronyms, the answer is no. SEPM stands for “Service Essential to the Preservation of Mankind.” Not the “Saving of,” not the “Rescuing of” (ahem, not “Humankind”) but the more semantically murky “Preservation.”

But this darkness, this doom the planet faces, is balanced out and made less bleak by the sarcastic sense of humour favoured by our friendly artificial consciousness, and by the unlikely romance that blooms in these last months before the sun expands.

“You’re completely unique.”
Yes, I don’t say. He smiles.
“And that’s worth fighting for,” he says. “There’s something bigger going on here; I’m just not sure what yet. People have died for it.”
He rebandages the chip, then opens the bathroom door to grab the clothes, as if he didn’t just say the most validating – romantic? – thing this computer program has ever heard.

This is a whirlwind of a sci-fi ride, with humour, romance, scientific anomalies, an artificial consciousness you’d love to have in your life, and an ending you won’t see coming. 

This debut author really delivers, and I will definitely be checking out more of their work.



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Category: Book Reviews

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