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Do Two Recent Novels About China Obscure the Looming Robot Threat? Yes

Courtesy of Penguin Group, FSG; iStockphoto


The Times review of Alex Berenson’s The Ghost War gave us déjà vu. The novel depicts an imagined war between China and the United States triggered by an idealistic but scheming Communist Party official. It seemed familiar because it reminded us of the other book the Times reviewed recently whose plot is driven by Chinese chicanery, Colin Harrison’s The Finder. In Harrison’s novel, a Chinese immigrant poses as a janitorial worker in midtown in order to steal corporate secrets for her brother’s firm in Shanghai.

Frankly, this threatening-Chinese theme worries us. Not for political reasons; neither book is said to be jingoistic. Rather, it’s because we’re concerned that “the coming war against the Chinese” is going to replace “the coming war against the machines” as our leading fictional-future-war trope.

The inevitable apocalyptic battle against machines has long been a fruitful topic in books (Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov), film (The Terminator, The Matrix), and shit-shooting bar discussions. (We personally believe that simple machines pose an underrated threat; how are we going to lift and move heavy objects when the automaton rocket-blasting helicopters, appealing to intra-machine solidarity, convince levers and pulleys to turn against us?) And this business with the Chinese is a dangerous distraction — a second front, if you will, in a time when America doesn’t have the resources to fight two imaginary future wars at once. In fact, we suspect “Alex Berenson” and “Colin Harrison” are actually Undercover Models AB-246 and CH-391, robotic novelist-simulating fifth-columnists.

In summary, the Times book section is actively working toward a future in which humans are kept alive only so robots can imprison them in cages and harvest their fingernails, which they use to make decorative chess pieces. Need more proof? The Times has resolutely refused to review How to Build a Robot Army, by Daniel Wilson, Ph.D., which — if not solving the problem of an eventual robot uprising — does at least offer humans guidance in co-opting the violent tendencies of robots for our own purposes. Review this worthy book, New York Times, and then we can talk about "balanced coverage" and "not letting our robot masters drive the agenda."

Please share this information with everyone you know. —Ben Mathis-Lilley

The China Card [NYTBR]
Review of The Finder [NYT]