Richards & Klein 1: Reality 36


Published: August, 2011

Page count: 427

Publisher: Angry Robot

ISBN: 0857661469

Reality 36

Something is amiss in the digital realm of Reality 36. Richards – a Level 5 Artificial Intelligence with a Private Eye fetish – and his partner, a decommissioned German military cyborg, are on the trail of a murderer, but the killer has hidden inside an artificial reality. Richards and Klein must follow him into Reality 36 to stop him before he becomes a god – for the good of all the realms.

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Reviews

Here are some of the reviews of Reality 36.

The Guardian (reader review)

A splendid SF detective novel with a glorious sense of humour, Reality 36: A Richards and Klein investigation is a belter of a debut by Guy Haley. In these pages you’ll find the true meat of good science fiction; Haley’s world-building is crackerjack, and in following his political, economic, sociological and technological breadcrumb trail from our now to Reality 36‘s world of 2129, we discover a richly textured and all-too believable version of the future.

Yet the phenomenal background remains just that, and Haley knows not to let it get in the way of a good story. His detective heroes – ex-military cyborg Otto Klein and Richards, an artificial intelligence who fancies himself as a rumpled PI – are indelibly inked, a terrific twosome, and in the grand tradition of all good noir they find themselves sucked into a murder investigation that leads, inexorably, to something very big, very important and very dangerous indeed, in both the real world and the virtual one.

And it’s funny, too — Richards calls the virtual offices of the officious AI head of ‘EuPol Central’ — “the home of a monumentally arrogant cock” — proving that, in the future, people will remain people, even if they’re post-singularity artificial intelligences.

It’s hard to overstate how entertaining Reality 36 is. Bursting with ideas, character and invention, and yet grounded in a future that it’s just possible to see, if you squint hard enough, this is assured and compelling storytelling. Roll on the sequel, next year’s Omega Point.

SF Book Reviews

Richard is a Level 5 Artificial Intelligence and a Private Eye, his partner a German ex military cyborg named Klein. Their newest case takes them on the hunt for a killer who has jumped realities, hiding in the artificial construct of Reality 36. Unless Richard and Klein can stop him his powers could become godlike and threaten all the realms.

It’s amazing just how fast technology is progressing, we can hold in our hands more power than the fastest computers on the planet were capable of just 20 years ago and this progress see’s no sign of slowing. Jump forward a little over a hundred years and we arrive at the world of Richard and Klein, a future where Artificial Intelligence has not only reached sentience but far outstrips the ability of the organic mind. A world where there is no longer just one “reality” but dozens and the line between the real and unreal, artificial and organic has become very blurry indeed.

The book is very much a post cyberpunk detective story and one that has been written by an incredibly talented author – this is another Angry Robot publication and boy can they pick their novels! The story follows two arcs that run parallel to each other – one following the intrepid detectives and the other a very interesting character named Veronique. The characterisation is flawless and the authors ability to humanise an AI construct while retaining the characteristics of an artificial being is nothing short of brilliant, even the minor characters are perfectly drawn – The Paladin and Lion are good examples – both memorable and intriguing.

The backstory is handled well, there are no massive infodumps to derail the pace and the use of exposition is kept to an absolute minimum – we get enough data to bring the world to life and learn more as we delve deeper into the different realities. Meanwhile the story is compelling, intriguing and complicated enough to keep you guessing through most of the book.

Despite my fondness for technology, I am often cautious about picking up novels that are largely based on software constructs, I have found in the past that many authors haven’t been able to adequately describe something that is inherently “virtual” and in an effort to encourage the reader to relate this to the real world they replicate the same conditions. I saw a good example of this problem while watching television with my young son, it was a new Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles series and in this episode they “digitised” themselves to rescue Splinter and Fight Shredder however all that really happened was they changed colours, became a bit “pixilated” and could do a few things they couldn’t in the “real” world. I know that the kids must still be able to relate to what’s going on whenever I see that I feel cheated, like someone’s just not used their imagination to visualise how it could really be, a good example of the way it shouldn’t be done.

The author here though has been handled it perfectly – at no point did I lose the plot or feel that I was being bamboozled – there is also no technobable and as a result the narrative is both easy to read and set at an energetic pace. The cyberspace itself feels very much like a 21st century vision of Gibson’s classic, complete with the ability to really die in the artificial realities – the characters even make use of a physical “jack in” point.

Reality 36 is more immersive than virtual reality and more intelligent than Deep Thought – it is an utterly modern post cyberpunk detective tale and a damn fine read.

Free SF

Here’s another Post-Collapse story of a sort from Angry Robot.

A little different though in that the protagonists in this novel are a cyborg and an AI. The latter likes to run around physically in a robot body, too.

Apart from having come through wars and conflicts, the human race has also had to deal with the rise of artificial intelligences – some of whom went crazy. There are different designations – some smart enough to be toasters or shoot things, past those that can be pathologists and right up to the Fives. These are sophisticated enough to run governments if they are so inclined.

Along with the recovery came virtual worlds and uploading technology. Of the kind that you need IV and support technology to exist in such as in Tad Williams’ Otherworld series. Complete with the baroque fantastical environments, too.

Thanks to the work of an academic and some activists, AI have some civil rights brokered in uneasy compromise. Therefore there are anti-AI fanatics, fanatic AI who want to use technology to control things for themselves, and everything in between.

This is where our heroes come in. An ex-military cyborg and his Five partner do troubleshooting and detective work. They become involved with the death of the leader of the AI rights movement – but he seems to have died multiple times. His best student is on the run and Richards and Klein have to find her before bad things happen to her, too.

A really interesting future setting with realigned political power. Not your overt dystopia or utopia anything, but more along the lines of this is just where we got to in this future. Something that takes a bit more invention and thought in general, I think.

Had no idea who Guy Haley was, but from this book, he is very good.

However, it appears he has committed duology or trilogy or something. As in, cliffhanger! You bastard! So not a completely self-contained story serial as murder investigation type novels usually are, although that part does get solved.

Very good.

4 out of 5

 I Wish I Was A book

I don’t read much science fiction. I think it is because of the same reason I don’t read much hardcore fantasy – I like my fiction as grounded as possible in the norm. I struggle to visualise worlds that I don’t know, whether they be a distant planet orbited by 7 moons where the inhabitants worship mechanoids created millennia ago, or Middle-earth-esque lands where hordes of orcs battle the elegant, a-sexual elves, it matters not. I also tend to get confused by technical talk, especially if that technical talk is nonsense.

So I’ll admit now that Reality 36 by Guy Haley with its plethora of futuristic techno-babble and host of fantastical worlds populated by computer generated Paladins and talking lions – was never high up on my reading list…

Oh, how I curse my narrow-mindedness!

The first thing that should have suggested to me that I would probably like Reality 36 is that it is not just a science fiction novel, it is a science fiction detective novel, and I love a classic detective novel as much as anyone. The second thing I should have taken note of is that it is due to be published by Angry Robot, my new favourite publisher of speculative fiction. Thankfully about a week ago I found myself with nothing to read, so I switched on my Kobo and started Reality 36, the very first Richards & Klein Investigation.

It is excellent. I really loved it. I loved it more than I ever thought I would. Even when I was a couple of chapters in I was still sceptical. I found there to be too much techno-talk, too many acronyms to remember, and the story was jumping from place to place. I was glazing over whole paragraphs. Then, suddenly, it didn’t matter. I was got used to acronyms, learnt who was who, and was immersed in a gripping storyline that was part Blade Runner, part I-Robot and part Sherlock Holmes.

I should say that even when I was immersed in the story there were still times when the technical talk – most of it nonsense I believe – overwhelmed me, dragging me back to reality with a bump, but a few lines of glazing over then I was sucked right back in.

Richards – the main protagonist and level 5 AI – is extremely likeable, hiding his fears about his existence and doubts as to whether someone like he, a man-made creature can be truly alive, behind a cocky, wise cracking PI front. Klein – Richards’ partner and genetically enhanced human – on the other hand is introverted and quiet, preferring actions over words, and is riddled with his own personal demons and haunted by his violent past. Both characters have a depth to them that is often missing from fun and fast paced action books like this one, and it is a refreshing change.

The story, as I have already mentioned, was immersive, and it throws up some interesting if not completely original questions on artificial intelligence and the effects our increasing population and reliance on non-renewable resources are having on our planet. Unfortunately as we came to the climax I was feeling that much of the story was superfluous, and felt that if some of the supporting characters, like the murdered Professor Qifang, had acted more sensibly then the whole situation would have been resolved chapters earlier. These feelings were short-lived, as we hurtled into a dramatic and action packed final two chapters, which leave us on an unexpected but very welcome cliff-hanger.

Bring on book 2 of the Richards & Klein Investigations!

Highly Recommended.

Staffer’s Musings

In the year 2069, the first true Artificial Intelligence is created.  Thirty years later the Class Fives are born, becoming the first fully self-aware AIs.  Along with their less advanced cousins, “Fives” become known as the Neukind.  One of them is Richards, a private detective considered to be the most human of his kind.  Richards is approached by the EuPol (think European Union/Interpol) to investigate the disappearance of the world’s foremost expert in Neukind rights.  Unfortunately for Richards and Klein, it appears their quarry has hidden himself in Reality Realm 36, a now defunct game world populated by AIs and thus afforded the same rights as Reality itself.
In true Angry Robot form, Reality 36 has lots of robot stuff.  There are cyborgs, androids, cydroids (what?), super AIs, wussy AIs, and insane AIs.  The internet is on steroids and with a little work the more powerful AIs can send themselves anywhere there’s a connection with enough bandwidth to handle them.  Naturally, there’s no shortage of action.  Klein, a decommissioned military cyborg, is almost never still.  He leaps over cars, absorbs dozens of flechettes, and generally causes mayhem wherever he shows up.  By contrast, Richards is an investigator and a bit of a flirt.  He prefers to let Klein get his hands dirty while he plays the mental game.

While the action is very well done, the part that works most in Haley’s favor is the application of technology.  Everything just makes sense.  Haley’s world hinges on the discovery of the Singularity within the next hundred years.  This application of processing power leads to, as Ray Kurzweil stated, “technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history”.  Thanks to this technological change, game worlds (think World of Warcraft) have developed to the point of becoming alternate realities with machines as aware and alive as those existing in Real Space.  Makes sense, right?  I know I can think of a few humans that spend more time living in a game world than in reality.

This reality (so far as science fiction goes) is what makes the book so compelling.  It’s an actual glimpse into the future as much as it’s a mystery yarn and an action thriller.  Isn’t that what Science Fiction is all about?  I hesitate to put the label of “hard sci-fi” on Reality 36, but only because I don’t have the knowledge base to determine how much of what Haley has created is nonsense versus actual science.  What I do know is it reads authentic.  When bullets aren’t flying I felt like I was having a discussion with the author about the implications the Singularity will have on humanity.  And that’s cool.

Generally speaking Haley writes a strong narrative.  In my head as I was reading the novel I was comparing it favorably to another debut from earlier this year – Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief.  They really aren’t similar in any way other than they read with a similar pace and absence of information dumping (a pet peeve of mine).  While there are some expositions from time to time about the world’s history, for the most part Haley allows the understanding of his reality to be absorbed organically as opposed to forcing it down his reader’s throat.  When he does ramble a bit, it’s usually integrated into a character that’s a bit of a windbag (Hughie, I’m looking at you dude!)  I thought this formula was very successful in Thief and Haley accomplishes it here as well in Reality 36.

My only fundamental problem with the novel is that it’s not complete.  Haley ends things on a pretty brutal cliff hanger akin to the season finale of a TV drama.  The way the title is currently worded makes it seem as though the book will read a bit like a TV procedural where each Richards and Klein Novel is a mystery to be solved, but fully encapsulated within the pages of the book.  Instead Reality 36 is more like Reality 36: The First of Half of a Richards and Klein Duology.  I know I shouldn’t be too upset about it, but there it is.  Even first installments in a larger series should have a beginning, middle, and an end (call me close minded).

Ultimately, the only conclusion I was able to draw from Reality 36 is that I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel Omega Point next year.  Sure the ending was annoying, but Guy Haley has really produced a first-rate robot novel.  While Robopocalypse is this years hottest robot release and will assuredly sell more copies, I think Reality 36 is a superior novel in almost every way.  Angry Robot Books keeps churning out great additions in speculative fiction.

Falcata Times

OK, let’s be blunt here, I’m usually a Fantasy Man rather than Science Fiction although usually when I indulge its into a bleak future with war raging as mankind fights for its survival. What this title from Guy offers is a story that would bankrupt many a movie studio if they chose to make it, a set of characters that really gel well and of course a plot that explodes (electron speaking) into the reader’s imagination.

The plot is huge with a myriad of fibre optic threads throughout various artificial realities that keep the reader glued as the story wends its way through cleverly written prose with an overall threat that really does add a whole new level to the threats of cyber attack’s as well as allowing the reader to think in multiple dimensions at the same time. Add to this characters that literally spark from each other to keep the reader hooked and it was a story that worked on a number of levels.

Whilst this wasn’t my usual sort of fare I did enjoy it and I think that many Sci-Fi Fans will appreciate this title more than I did, for me the skill in creating the piece as well as viewing the wirework beneath were examples of the authors talent and demonstrate that Angry Robot really is pulling no punches on bringing the hot talent to the fore.

I Will Read Books

Reality 36 is the debut novel of Guy Haley. What attracted me to it was its terrific blurb. Richards and Klein are described as the Holmes and Watson of the 22nd century. Anyone that has read my blog is probably aware of that I am a sucker for crime fiction when it’s mixed with Sci-Fi or fantasy. So what’s special about Richards and Klein then? Well to start with Richards is not even human, he is an AI. That should make him the brains of the operation, which leaves Klein as the muscle. Otto Klein is an ex-military specials operations cyborg, so yes plenty of muscle there. Angry Robot has once again kindly enough provided me with a review copy.

Lately, I have read a lot of books set in a grim and far too realistic future. Reality 36 is a great example of such a book. Global warming and war have ravaged our planet. Conditions are improving under the guidance of the AIs who have been given control. Europe and the US have given AIs human rights whereas China have forbidden them completely. Along with the amendment of rights of artificial sentients the 36 Reality Realm online game is made off limits to humans. Even orcs and goblins have rights, but enough with the exposition, let’s get down to business.

Inside Reality 36 safety protocols have been activated. An intrusion from the outside has been detected and the realm’s guardians are summoned.

Veronique Valdaire is sleeping. Or trying to sleep at least. Her digital companion, Chloe, is doing her best to wake her up. She has several missed calls from her boss, the professor, it’s urgent and they need to talk. The chirpy bombardment of wakeup calls from Chloe is finally enough to get her out of bed. Wearily, she makes her way down to the office. The professor is nowhere to be found and the building’s AI complains over a malfunction, it has been disconnected from parts of the building. He did however leave a message for her, but it is not good news. Then the reception informs her that VIA spooks, agency that protects and monitors AIs, are on their way up to see her. Not good news.

Richards is in a lovely garden, talking to his old friend Hughie. Hughie is one of the most powerful AIs in the world and he hates being called Hughie. Which is why Richards has given him that nickname, he needs to be taken down a peg or two. Today Richards is looking for a favor. Hughie is responsible for the European internal security and he owes Richards a favor. In return for a favor Hughie only asks that Richards performs one small task for him. A high-profile person has been murdered on a yacht, but Hughie’s investigators have not found anything. The yacht is still quarantined at sea pending further investigation, no one has been allowed on or off.

It all turns out to be more than just a simple favour and Richards and Klein will be stretched to the limit of their abilities.

Reality 36 is the kind of book that seems to have been written with me as the target audience. Guy Haley is the new author I have been waiting for. It has the intense action of a Neal Asher book, you can almost feel the shockwave of explosions and the impact of blows. There is a great dynamic between Richards and Otto. Richards is enthusiastic, full of life, cheeky and always offers an interesting opinion on events. He loves taking the piss out of those in high places, and especially his friend Hughie. I love it how Guy Haley choose to dress him in trench coat and hat like a chirpy alternative to Sam Spade.

Otto, he is the opposite side of the coin. Jaded, serious and a no-nonsense person. He does not play around. There is also a gentle side to Otto, something you might not expect from a half metal, half flesh killing machine. Together, Richards and Otto are really great and good fun. I found it easy to engage with the characters and feel sympathetic to them.

Another strong point of Reality 36 is the world building. A lot of thought and detail has gone into Haley’s scarred version of earth. Throughout the book we are given more and more information about the state of the world and how it ended up this way. This careful drip-feed of information is great, the plot never takes second place to the exposition and pace is maintained at all times. Speaking of the plot, it’s complex enough to keep you interested and guessing what is going to happen next, without getting confusing.

Guy Haley has adopted a Gibsonesque version of cyberspace. A user is required to ‘jack-in’, and once ‘in there’ the dangers are very real. The feedback from a death in cyberspace can, and has, kill a person. No mentions of Black Ice, but there are some equally dangerous counter measures deployed in Reality 36.

Unless you hate fun, stop what you are doing and pick up Reality 36. It’s an action packed book, riddled with armour-piercing wit and incredibly entertaining. On a more serious note, Reality 36 does a big think on the issues raised by the existence of Artificial Intelligence in society. I cannot wait to read the next Richards and Klein case, Omega Point, due to be released in 2012.

Cybermage

I love new authors especially if they write science fiction. This is Guy Haley’s debut and the first Richard & Klein novel. The second part, Omega Point is scheduled for April next year. If you want to sample the book you may do so below. You may also check out a free Richard & Klein novella at Guy Haley’s home page Haley’s Comment. I wonder if this is the first book out of Angry Robot’s open submission month earlier this year. {No, it wasn’t – Guy]

I totally misunderstood the blurb thinking it was about an Ai with a fetish for π but it is obviously about a Private Investigator (PI) fetish. The novel is basically a murder case but evolve to a novel take on singularity. The main characters are a class Five AI, Richard and Otto Klein, a former German special operations cyborg. They have an entertaining buddy relationship with some dry humor and a lot of respect even if Otto sometimes want to kill all machines including his partner. You might think Richard is the brain and Otto is the muscles but it is not that easy. One of the more entertaining scenes is when Richard has to make a full frontal attack in a battle mech.

Each chapter has a point-of-view character.

This takes place some hundred and fifty years in the future after the AI wars. In the EU and USNA all sentients have rights including the non player characters in the gaming realms so they have been closed to gamers and the individuals in there are allowed to live their own lives without influence from human ‘gods’. There are now 36 such realms. Virtual emersion is a crime. Each chapter starts with: All members of the Community of Equals are created free and equal in dignity and rights to emphasis this rule.

One of the foremost activists for machine rights, Professor Zhang Qifang is being murdered at least twice and Richard & Klein are conned into taking the case by Hughie, the EuroPol AI. Hughie and Richard have a funny deadpan kind of dialog and an I-am-not-showing-any-feeling kind of friendship going on.

Prominent in the story are also the Professor’s assistant Veronique Valdaire and her abusive cheerful phone Chloe. There is something I really like about intelligent and witty computer companions like Chloe. She reminds me of Kris Longknife’s Nelly and Ingrid that philosophy discussing Nokia phone from the Netherworld Trilogy by Christopher Rowley. Bickering is fun especially if it is a machine that does it.

Veronique goes on the run early in the novel and we get to follow her and the detectives as they try to unravel the mystery. They also try to avoid being captured by The Virtualities Investigation Authority, VIA which sounds like soap to me but here it is the organization that protect and police the Neukinds.

Guy Haley has created a fascinating world with The People’s Dynasty hiding behind the Great Firewall of China and the United States of North America governed by the three Sams. The AIs’ have started to clean up centuries of pollution and live in a not to secure peace with humanity. Near-I and AI machines is part of life. There are no info dumps just details glimpsed. It feels believable and well thought out. It is a world I would like to learn more of.

As you understand by now I really liked Realm 36. It got a fast pace, is humorous in tone, filled with action, combat and robots a great debut. Guy Haley is a writer to watch. This is not a standalone book it ends in a cliffhanger hopefully concluded in Omega Point next spring. I warmly recommend this explosive PI meets Singularity debut.

LA Examiner

After a double-dip apocalypse (catastrophic flooding and a struggle over the virtual reality realms, resulting in humans being permanently expelled from them and huge tensions between humans and AI), the worlds, real and digital, will never be the same.  AI beings, called Neukind, have advanced to the point where some are able act autonomously, and have been granted a set of rights and protections to prevent them from being enslaved by humans or other AI.

The leading proponent for Neukind rights, Zhang Qifang, is based in a futuristic Los Angeles, where UCLA has relocated a major portion of its campus to Chino Hills, since Westwood is now essentially beachfront property.  California’s governing party, the Dippies, have institutionalized peace, love, and granola, 21st century style, casting a surrealistic shadow over the whole scene. Guy Haley, the book’s author, Yorkshire-raised and now living in Somerset, says, “I’ve been to LA several times and tried to imagine how large scale environmental and political change might affect it. Although the book tries to envisage that for the whole planet, I thought it safer to feature places I’d actually been to.”

The action begins when Qifang leaves an encrypted message for his assistant, Veronique Valdaire, instructing her to meet him in Reality 36. The reality realms are former game environments which, once humans were expelled from them, became protected “natural” habitats for their characters to live out their own lives.  Haley does a brilliant job of bringing these former game characters to life as Valdaire adventures her way through Reality 36, trying to find Qifang, and discover the truth behind the strange goings-on in both of her worlds.

When Richards, a class 5 AI whose personality is charmingly human, and Otto Klein, a retired German military cyborg, part superhero action figure and part regular guy who wonders if he isn’t getting too old for this stuff, are sent to investigate Qifang’s disappearance the plot bursts forth with an engaging mystery and thrilling action.

The supporting characters are well developed and give the story rich dimension; they’re not just set dressing. Valdaire’s AI assistant, Chloe, who is like a 3-year-old girl combined with a PDA (makes sense, since she evolved from Valdaire’s childhood doll), and Otto & Richards’ wise-cracking AI secretary, Genie, serve as skillfully placed comic relief. Sir Jagadith and his trusty cyber-lion steed, Tarquinius, former game characters, now guardians of Reality 36, are so noble and lovable, they give the reader a reason to care what happens to their world.  Huey, the EuPol AI who hires Richards and Otto, is a great straight man, and a fascinatingly complex personality.

The worlds Haley builds are easy to buy into and the plot is so compelling that it would be hard not to be swept into its pull.  This admirable debut novel ends with a rather steep cliffhanger, but Haley says not to worry; the manuscript for the sequel, Omega Point, is nearly done, and will be released in 2012.

Comments
  1. [...] & KleinA timeline of the futureReality 36Short StoriesA Small Question of WaterInterviewsAlaistair Reynolds (2007)M John [...]

  2. [...] of MarsRichards & KleinA timeline of the futureOmega PointReality 36Short StoriesA Small Question of WaterInterviewsAlaistair Reynolds (2007)Joanne [...]

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