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Friday, October 18, 2019

Detonation by Erik A. Otto




Official Author Website
Order Detonation over HERE (USA)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Erik A. Otto is a former healthcare industry executive and technologist, now turned science fiction author. Erik's works of fiction expose the impact of cultural and technological themes on society in a number of futuristic and otherworldly settings. He focuses on delivering intricate plotting, engaging characters and action-driven storytelling to immerse the reader in thought-provoking events and circumstances.

In addition to writing, Erik is currently serving as the Managing Director of Ethagi Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting the safe and ethical use of artificial general intelligence technologies. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife and two children.

FORMAT/INFO: Detonation is 632 pages long and is a standalone book. The author self-published it in 2018. The cover art and design are by Anup Kumar Bhattacharya and Karolis Zukas.


OVERVIEW: AGI terrifies me. I hope it likes pets and treats them well. Maybe it’ll allow its pet-humans to read books and enjoy themselves?

That sounds nicer than wiping out all human race in a spray of blood and nanobots. I try to remain optimistic, but the existential risk of superintelligence is imminent and severe. 

A computer with the same pattern of algorithms as our brains could think much faster than us because silicon-based transistors fire faster and communicate faster than biological neurons. Yes, you too should be terrified.

Detonation explores mankind’s constant quest for rapid innovation and the risks it generates. The reader gets a glimpse of a world where super-intelligent machines almost destroyed humanity. Why? Not to spoil the things it was a matter of a simple P&L calculation. Perfectly logical when you look at it rationally (despite the absurd AGI’s goals programmed by a human).

The novel alternates between two timelines, Pre-Detonation and Post-Detonation, in what we know as USA. The remaining society is divided into two camps: tech-savvy Spokes, and the Essentialists, who perceive technology as the primary cause of Detonation. Both factions use primitive post-Detonation technology. The Retchers (bird-like monsters) seek and destroy any electronic devices manufactured before the event.

I especially enjoyed the pre-Detonation part of the book told through the eyes of Axel - a security director for a powerful corporation. His mission is simple - stop humanity from destroying itself by reckless development of AI. Axel won‘t hesitate to kill an “innocent” programmer when needed. His storyline got me on the edge of the seat and I loved its non-compromising but hopeful conclusion.

The remaining storylines were good but not as engaging. I guess it comes to other characters who, while well-developed, weren’t as relatable as Axel. Despite significant length (632 pages), Detonation kept me invested and eager to see what will happen to characters and the world. Expect violence, treason, and drama, plus chilling reflections on our not-to-distant future.

I find the book stimulating intellectually and terrifying. That said, I wouldn’t call Otto a skillful wordsmith. His prose is simple and utilitarian. His similes tend to sound awkward. I didn’t mind as I was interested in the events and the plot.

Overall, Detonation combines action, philosophy, and social commentary in an absorbing and terrifying tale. It’s terrifying not because of the bloodshed but because I can see Detonation happen in my lifetime.

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