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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Proxies", Laura J. Mixon

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKPRXIES.RVW 991121 Proxies , Laura J. Mixon, 1998, 0-812-52387-3 %A Laura J. Mixon %C 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010 %D 1998 %G
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2000
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      BKPRXIES.RVW 991121

      "Proxies", Laura J. Mixon, 1998, 0-812-52387-3
      %A Laura J. Mixon
      %C 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
      %D 1998
      %G 0-812-52387-3
      %I Tor Books/Tom Doherty Assoc.
      %O pnh@... www.tor.com
      %P 468 p.
      %T "Proxies"

      The dust jacket promotion emphasizes the originality of this novel,
      and the promise of great things from the author. While Mixon
      certainly presents a serviceable and even mature work, it isn't very
      different from many others that have gone before. The proxies of the
      title are android bodies that are used for telepresence: remotely
      controlled robots manipulated by human "pilots." In the world of the
      book, similar units called waldoes are very common, but the proxies
      are a new and classified version, developed to be indistinguishable
      from human beings, but with greatly superior strength, speed, and
      sensory capability. Because the robots are lifelike, a large part of
      the story involves either mistaken, or secret, identities and
      personalities.

      Mixon's characters are reasonable, but not exceptional. There are,
      however, quite a number of them. Indeed, the book suffers a little
      from the lack of any real central character, particularly since early
      parts of the book seem to imply that characters are modified by being
      "in proxy." The author also falls prey to the temptation to create an
      unexplained slang for the society in the book. Once you realize that
      most of the really outre terms are simply mangled French, it becomes
      easier to read. A number of the most frequently used words are both
      poorly defined in context, and difficult to derive. Is "kelly," a
      portable recording and note taking device, a reference to the (even
      now) old "Kelly Girl?" "Jello" seems to allude to a bewildering
      variety of video and display mechanisms, and even to something similar
      to fax printout. In addition, there is some mention of what seems to
      be runaway inflation; which is unconvincing given that only a very few
      prices, all for information access, are mentioned; and an ecological
      disaster which only seems to make it inconvenient to travel outdoors
      unprotected.

      The technology is very difficult to assess, since almost no details
      are given. A supposedly important communications technology (which
      turns out to be rather irrelevant to the plot in the end) is based
      upon a "recent discovery in physics," with no more explanation than
      that. (There is a reference to mass, as theoretically increased by
      high velocities.) While the instantaneous nature of that technology
      is undoubtedly important, there is no discussion of bandwidth or
      interface considerations.

      In terms of the proxies themselves, there are also problems. Almost
      everyone seems to be wired for direct brain-machine connection,
      possibly in order to be able to engage in virtual reality games.
      (Indeed, a newly ... created? ... personality seems to have a
      completely unrealistic knowledge of such games.) At one point there
      is a fairly detailed discussion of the difficulty of slow reaction
      times in getting the proxies to fight or do effective work. (Slow
      reaction times would also mean that you would have a tough time
      getting the proxies to even stand up straight without constantly
      falling over.) Yet several times the proxies react blindingly
      quickly, fast enough to kill, overpower, or escape from trained
      military or security people.

      On the other hand, you have to hand it to someone who understands that
      exposure to vacuum doesn't instantly result in "explosive"
      decompression.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKPRXIES.RVW 991121

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      The world is a dangerous place to live. Not because of the
      people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do
      anything about it. - Albert Einstein
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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