“André’s Reboot: Striving to Save Humanity”
Author: Steve Coleman
Publisher: S.B. Coleman
Price: $ 14.95 (Paper)
I have seldom discussed a science-fiction novel in this space, but after I learned that “André’s Reboot” has won the Silver Award from Independent Publisher Book Awards and Honorable Mention from “Writer’s Digest,” I decided to give it a look. I’m glad I did.
Steve Coleman of Birmingham has been a naval officer, English teacher and real estate broker. Now, retired, he writes novels. This is his third.
“André’s Reboot” is not technologically or linguistically sophisticated but it is straightforward, engaging, humorous and thought-provoking.
The André of the title is a robot, a droid. His creator is the genius inventor Dr. Philip Strauss, distant relative of the Waltz King.
Dr. Strauss had programmed André to do chores, cut the grass and so on. Under stress, however, as a ferocious hailstorm is approaching, he picks up the children in his care, Billy and Becky, and takes them inside to safety.
He had not been programmed to do that.
Dr. Strauss asks “How did you know?”
André answers: “I just knew. I know things now…I’m André. I’m AWARE…I’m ME.”
From his moment of achieving consciousness, André gains more and more capabilities. Joining memory and experience, he develops the ability to exercise logic and solve problems.
He develops the capacity for violence but then must learn to control this capacity. It’s rough going at first. When children attack him with clubs and bb guns, he thrusts them to the ground.
Dr. Strauss then programs in Chivalry. Self-defense is still OK, but he must not injure children or the weak.
André, who will remind readers of Dr. Spock or DATA in Star Trek, can plug into the internet and take in limitless amounts of information.
Not burdened with emotions, he is free of various human problems.
Not so Dr. Strauss, who has an extramarital affair, gets divorced and goes bankrupt.
When put up for auction during bankruptcy proceedings, André reads law, helps represent himself and gets himself placed at the CIA as a consultant.
He can take in all maps, all history, all languages and becomes an expert on warfare in Afghanistan.
The generals don’t want to hear that we should withdraw the troops and offer only civilian aid.
For a while, André gives background briefings but then becomes the president’s translator since he has all languages entirely in his memory banks.
What starts as mild satire becomes more biting as André spends time with the unnamed president, a man filled with prejudices and rage and with no knowledge of “current issues or historical background.”
His communications people ignore the truth and create “alternate facts.”
Although I doubt that Coleman meant to allude to the eighteenth-century satirist Jonathan Swift, some passages reminded me of Book Four of “Gulliver’s Travels.”
In this section Gulliver finds himself on the island of the houyhnhnms. The houyhnhnms are essentially highly sophisticated horses, with an advanced society, code of ethics and laws. On the same island are dirty, savage, foul brutes: we would recognize them as humans.
The foul humans are called Yahoos and that word is one of Swift’s greatest contributions to the English language.
Aside from being foul-mouthed and vicious, the Yahoos are also adept at lying.
This is incomprehensible to the houyhnhnms. Their leader explains it thusly to Gulliver: “ … the use of speech was to make us understand one another, and to receive information of facts; now if anyone said the thing that was not, these ends were defeated; because I cannot properly be said to understand him, and I am so far from receiving information, that he leaves me worse than in ignorance, for I am led to believe a thing black when it is white, and short when it is long.”
André, who, as a droid, is a logical thinker, is confused and appalled by duplicity.
Moreover, he notices that the vice president, among others, seems to act as a “monkey-see-monkey-do person.”
At meetings, André raises his hand whenever the president makes a false or erroneous statement. Since the president “held very strong opinions, whether they were based on fact or not” and since “often truth lay crushed under his forcefully crude rhetoric,” André is perpetually busy.
To aid in discussions of border security, André invents “Connie,” a boxed robot that lights up and speaks whenever what the president proposes is unconstitutional. Chaos ensues.
Unbalanced, uninformed and incompetent, the president, with a massive arsenal at his disposal, is depicted as a danger to all mankind.
André does all he can to prevent the catastrophe he sees coming.
“André’s Reboot” partakes of the satire of Voltaire’s “Candide,” of the naïve narrator Huckleberry Finn, alludes directly to Orwell and ends, not to give too much away, as Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach.”
Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors.