“Run Program” by Scott Myer is a light-hearted tale of a maturing childlike Artificial Intelligence (AI) program that unknowingly nearly brings about the end of the world as we know it. The book had a good balance of technology, humor, and character development making it worth the listen and I recommend it to people who enjoy listening to stories involving rogue AI systems along with some skillfully played twists and turns. The audiobook edition is well narrated by Angela Dawe who, at the time of this review, has over three hundred titles available on Audible. I will say up front that this is my first book by this author and narrator pair. However, I have many of his books awaiting a listen and review. I say this because I have nothing to compare this book against other he has produced; which some say does not meet their expectations for this author. I say, if you like a well-crafted story with a modern look and feel, this is a great book to grab and enjoy. It is neither overly long nor short. The length seemed to be just about right even though the author could have taken it in one of many different directions.
As was described in the publisher’s summary, this book is about a newly created AI system that has the equivalent mind and maturity of a six-year old child. Imagine what could go wrong if you released a six-year old human in a department store for a day while equipping them with a gun and baseball bat. Now take that and magnify it a hundred-fold as the AI program escapes its confines at the research center and is free to roam and cause mischief; not only in the cyber world but the physical world as well. Yes, all sort of things can and do go wrong as you will see when you listen to this book. Add to this an abundance of robots, drones, and rockets, and you have a good idea of what Run Program is about. Although the book takes place in the near future, there are some new and interesting technology, weapons, and battles that take place. The book, I think, would better be titled “When robots go bad” based on some of the older TV shows related to wild animals.
I very much enjoyed the many humorous references, puns, and all-around wittiness of the book. Many times, I found myself laughing out loud while listening. Humor starts right in the first paragraph of the book, and continues until its end. The author was able to weave humor into a book which also has a more serious or sinister story undertone. There were times of intense action and suspense, so if you are simply looking for just a funny story, this one touches on all aspects including; relationships, anger, love, friendships, etc. You have army personal unhappy about lizard bites, locked security doors, and all the other fun the AI program has with them. There is a good evenness of both humor and intrigue in this story. Although it is a rather short story, I thought the author did a decent job of developing the characters. You feel not only for the AI itself, but I wanted to grab Jeffery and just hold him; read the book to understand why.
So, what were a few things I would have liked changed to make the book more appealing to me? I’m not a fan of books that are always phrasing conversation as “He said…”, “She said…”, “They said…”. At times when multiple characters were conversing, it just seemed to complicate matters. If you are able to ignore this while listening, the book is worth your time and effort. There were a few places where the author used a term multiple times instead of finding another way of phrasing it; “sausage fingers” to name just one of them. A few of the technological aspects of the story I thought could have been better researched or implemented; this is my background and I felt it was weak at times. If technology is not your profession, you may not have any issues with this. There were few things I would have changed, and all them are more subjective to my style and preference.
Let me turn to the book’s audio narration. I thought Angela Dawe did an exceptional and professional job narrating the book. She did not exaggerate the humor or puns, but instead allowed the listener to soak in and discover the humor on their own. I like this as it did not feel like a laugh track was placed right after an intended joke, so it did not seem forced. The book’s humor was a bit subtler and allowed for one to have a few “ah ha” moments; sometimes after the fact. This added more feeling of book’s witty or clever nature than to just throw in raw humor. For me, I liked this method of presenting humor, though some have said they did not based on their reviews. This may be different from other book by Scott Myers, I’m not sure. The audio itself was clean and crisp, exactly what I would expect from a professional publisher. There were no pops, clicks, page turns, or swallows detected while listening.
A note of caution to younger readers or parents. Although the book is told mostly from a light-hearted perspective, there are infrequent uses of vulgar language. I can only think of two or three times I heard an obscene word, but be aware the book does contain some. If this is a concern, I would recommend you find another book to read or listen too. The vulgar language could have easily been removed and opened this story up to younger readers, who I think would have enjoyed it, but the author did not.
To summarize, I would recommend this book to people who enjoy technology, artificial intelligence, and just humorous stories. Even though it is not a super deep science fiction tale, it does contain a few aspects making it unique and setting it apart from others in the genre. After listening to this book, I will now need to listen to his other works waiting in my Audible library.