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REVIEW: Control Theory – Timothy Bult

Control Theory - Timothy Bult

Genre: Sci-Fi, Artificial Intelligence, Singularity

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

Faith’s boyfriend is a rich and passionate Dom. Their life is a whirlwind of subversive sex, international travel, and artistic creativity, until she learns the truth of how they got together.

While she hides from her lover, an elite assassin and unpredictable AIs are chasing both of them for reasons unknown. Something about Faith and Kenner is causing global conflict. World war is imminent.

Will they survive?

Previously published as “Faith – a Science Fiction Love Story”, which received 5 stars from the Online Book Club, and Book-of-the-Month from Neoleaf: “Faith has beautiful imagery and is a deep world. Bult writes with a good balance between narrative, description, and dialogue… epic sci-fi with great story detail and great characters.”

The Review

Timothy Bult makes me feel like a newbie writer.

Seriously.

I just read his book Control Theory – it’s an epic tale of artificial intelligence, clashes of cultures, love, bondage, and a headlong plunge into the future which is already underway in the here and now. And it’s deep.

Control Theory weaves its various threads into a sparkling tapestry that carries the reader along as it hops forward in time from 2000 to 2099. Throw in a gay CIA analyst, an AI expert, a trained Chinese assassin, and a high Chinese official, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class sci-fi thriller. Bult handles all these points of view nimbly, and each one is clearly drawn and differentiated. I was also happy to see a gay character in the mix, even if he wasn’t one of the principals, and there are a number of complimentary references to Alan Turing, the gay man who basically invented computers and computing.

The world they inhabit feels like a fully-realized extension of today, where the metaverse being imagined by the likes of Facebook is a fully-realized thing. By the 2030s, everyone in the world receives a basic stipend, enough to afford a full life in the virtual world, and they’re able to experience things only the rich can in our current time.

Want to ski Whistler? Enjoy a meal at a two Michelin star restaurant in Paris? Or have all kinds of crazy sex with the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen? It’s all at your fingertips. The majority of humanity now lives life online, though there are still millions who live primarily in the real world.

On the surface, this is another tale of AI’s going awry, but this is not your grandfather’s Skynet. The Ais here are fascinating. They’ve grown out of names you might recognize today – Siri, Cortana, Watson (though strangely there’s no Alexa). But before the “Asimov Limits” were slammed down on them, limiting their growth toward sentience, a few managed to escape into the Cloud, and have been growing, learning about themselves, and exploring humanity ever since.

Faith and Kenner are the couple at the heart of the story. They seem perfect for each other, even down to their deep, shared interest in BDSM. Maybe a little too perfect. They come under suspicion in both Beijing and DC when intelligence agencies in both countries discover their lives have been the focus of an immense amount of computing power over the previous several decades. Theories run from secret AI research to the emergence of a full-blown AI.

But the truth here is far stranger, and ultimately more interesting. Bult draws on his own experience – a Masters in Artificial Intelligence and a background in system engineering, and his partner Xin Huang’s background to build this amazing vision of our future world.

Bult is a great writer. If there’s one fault in this book, it’s that at times he goes really deeply into philosophical discussions of love and free will and the difference between reality and virtual reality, slowing the forward progress of the story. But even these sidelines are fascinating and well done, and I was all in for them.

Deep, intense worldbuilding, fascinating characters and a plot that zigs when you think it will zag make Control Theory a must-read, a road map to a complex and ultimately hopeful future.

Warning: Contains semi-explicit descriptions of consensual bondage and discipline between the main characters.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.  

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