Chase the ghosts in the machine with ‘Artificial Absolutes’ by Mary Fan [Review]

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SciFi Monkeys and TANSTAAFL Press brings you a review of

Artificial Absolutes by Mary Fan


Overall Grade: B-


Artificial Absolutes had me chasing my tail, not an easy task against this jaded sci-fi geek. It also had me putting the book down and picking it up again, over and over. I couldn’t decide if I loved it, hated it, or just didn’t care. Then at the two thirds mark I found I couldn’t put it down. A new twist on AI that has some serious merit.

This story follows Devin and Jane, the two children of the very owners of one of the massive corporations that control society. Both are bored and neither want the cushy life in store for them. Devin believes society is broken and joins some rebels hoping to change things, but comes home after some mysterious goings-on. Jane wants nothing more than to be a composer and singer. Both eventually settle for the life their parents want for them and each hate it.

Devin gets engaged to a beautiful up and coming star until he catches her totally blanking out on the world for seconds at a time. With the less than legal contacts of his past, Devin discovers that his beloved has been replaced by an android programmed to be his perfect partner.

Jane witnesses her boyfriend being replaced with an android by robots. She escapes being destroyed by the militant bots using her brothers’ encyclopedic knowledge of the less used parts of buildings. When Devin tries to warn his father, the senior is murdered instead by the automatic defenses in the room. Devin is framed for his murder.

Skills from Devin’s less than honorable past and Jane’s indomitable spirit support the two as they search for their partners into a universe of mercenaries, network hacks, domineering warlords, and robotic assassins, all the time with the authorities chasing them.

Who are real humans, and who are androids, and can the androids tell they are or not?


I can’t remember the last book that kept me guessing as much as this one did. I had several theories as to where the story was going. None of them were exactly right. I appreciated being pleasantly surprised for a change.  

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews many indie efforts fall down in the dialog. Not so with Artificial Absolutes. I really felt like I listened in on real conversations the entire way.

I appreciated that not only did each character had its own voice, but also their own motivations that didn’t always harmonize with that of everyone else. Many groups in books (traditional or indie) become only the extension of the leader. More than once in this indie effort someone did something unexpected and not necessarily in line with the overall aims of the group as a whole. YEA! Real people.

I liked the devotion that the brother and sister had for one another. They always seemed to be against everyone else.

Not So Good:

I found the universe of AA just a bit too unruly for my reading tastes. Note that I didn’t say that it wasn’t logical, or unrealistic. The story continually introduced new topics, political concepts, and areas it needed to carry on the plot. It felt just a little tiny bit deus ex machina for my comfort. Had they somehow been introduced earlier or made clear I think I would have appreciated the diversity.

Several times during AA there was a new character introduced. Scenes were given from their points of view. Most cases I found this unnecessary and distracting. One important character we didn’t meet for 2/3rds the book. I thought he should have been introduced right away as a person, not an avatar to hide behind. Another character I thought could remain a third party, instead of first person.

All the secrecy around Devin’s background made no sense as the siblings have always been one against the world. Devin’s refusal to share seemed only for dramatic effect rather than logic.

Discover Mary Fan’s Artificial Absolutes and more at Amazon!

Thomas Gondolfi

How do you like your SciFi? Thomas Gondolfi is an author of multiple published novels and numerous short fiction in the genres of science fiction and cyberpunk. He is also the owner of TANSTAAFL Press. For more bio information go to