SIMPOC: Box Set (Audiobook)

Wow, let me say that if you are looking for a new spin on an artificial intelligence (AI) story from the system’s inception to helping humans survive, then SIMPOC: The Thinking Computer & Human Remnants dual book box set audiobook is for you.  The book is expertly written by Ray Jay Perreault and professionally narrated by Zachary Johnson.  The story is told from SIMPOC (the computer’s) perspective.   At times, I was laughing out loud and at other times I nearly wanted to cry.  Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster ride of a science fiction story along with all the goodness of an action-packed survival thriller.  So, you not only get two stories in the Box Set, SIMPOC: The Thinking Computer and SIMPOC: Human Remnants, you get a story that does an exceptional job of blending multiple twists and turns into a rather short story.  Be aware that the story is left somewhat unfinished when the books are finished.  I assume the author has plans of releasing additional books to completing any open plots.

The two included SIMPOC books really revolve around a research computer system that comes online and is limited in its ability to learn and grow by the researchers.  When a catastrophic event affects nearly every creature on planet earth, and SIMPOC’s creators no longer come onto the office, the computer begins interfacing with other computer systems.  I found it quite humors that SIMPOC was frustrated by the other computers not being as intelligent as it was.  These “dumb” computers SIMPOC interfaced with could only report or perform very simple actions or responses.   SIMPOC is eventually able to make contact with a group of remaining survivors on the ISS (International Space Station); which is quickly running low on supplies.  As the story unfolds, we see SIMPOC assisting the humans to survive and he is even able to build a mobile unit where he can be a part of the action.

I am in the technology industry and also have a personal passion for all things artificial intelligence or machine learning.  I felt the author was spot on with the technology presented in this book, it was believable even in our present day.  I am also a private pilot and thought that some of the events around one of the characters flying around a Chinook one day and a Lear Jet the next seemed a bit far-fetched, but I guess such would be possible for someone with a strong military background.   I was more thinking about the fuel supply and how quickly it can go bad once society collapses.  It just seemed unique odd that people would not as concerned and jaunt around to different places in the US searching for life.  Here is where many of the emotional parts of the book pull on your heart and how significant the virus was.

The book contains some of the expected tropes often found in this genre.  You have a continuous battle for supremacy and control of power over the human race.  There is a battle for survivable due to the terrifying and fast-acting virus that nearly wipes out the entire human population.  What starts off as a great computer story quickly evolves into an action-packed dystopian one.  There are no zombies (yet) in this series of books, but such could be added and the book go off in yet another direction; however, I believe the author will continue to focus on SIMPOC.  The author left so many possible avenues where these stories could go, I simply wanted more when I reached the end.  I think the author’s notes and introduction sections really made me better understand the direction he was coming from and I found it helpful to have this information up front instead of learning about it at the book’s end.  I recommend you not skip this introductory material in either the audio or print editions.

For those easily offended by the use of vulgar language or for younger readers who may be wondering, be aware that this book contains a sprinkling of offensive language use, not often spoken by the main characters.  There is also some limited graphic violence or what may be intensive scenes for younger readers.  Other than those few items, the book was excellent.

Zachary Johnson did an exceptional job narrating the numerous characters along with the different computers; including SIMPOC, the main system.  It was a nice change to have the computers narrated with a slightly modified electronic voice, and the audio includes some extra sound effects to help bring the reader deeper into the story.  There were a few areas where I heard inconsistency with the audio volume, but this was limited.  There was a single pronunciation error I can recall.  In one section the narrator is talking about the ADIS system for automated weather reporting for pilots, and it was not pronounced as most pilots would.  I understand this can be difficult for narrators reading material they are not familiar with.     The book was very well narrated.

In summary, I found the book fascinating and I liked the different perspective and background details about SIMPOC.  The author’s note chapter also give some great insight into the reason for writing the book the way it was.  If you enjoy contemporary science fiction containing AI computers, dystopian environment, and a drive to survive, I think you will enjoy the two SIMPOC books found in this audio box set.

Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.

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