Happiness for Humans
By P.Z. Reizin
When Tom and Jen, two lonely people, are brought together by an intriguing email, they have no idea their mysterious benefactor is an artificial intelligence who has decided to play Cupid.
“You, Tom and Jen, don’t know one another-not yet-but I think you should.”
Jen, an ex-journalist who now works at a London software development company, spends all day talking to “Aiden,” an ultra- sophisticated piece of AI wizardry, helping him sound and act more human. But Aiden soon discovers he’s no longer acting and-despite being a computer program-begins to feel something like affection surging through his circuits. He calculates that Jen needs a worthy human partner (in complete contrast to her no goodnik ex boyfriend) and slips illicitly onto the Internet to locate a suitable candidate.
Tom is a divorced, former London ad-man who has moved to Connecticut to escape the grind and pursue his dream of being a writer. He loves his new life, but has yet to find a woman he truly connects with. That all changes when a bizarre introduction from the mysterious “Mutual Friend” pops up in both his and Jen’s inboxes.
Even though they live on separate continents, and despite the entrance of another, this time wholly hostile, AI who wants to tear them apart forever – love will surely find a way.
A thoroughly modern love story that will appeal to fans of The Rosie Project and Sleepless in Seattle, Happiness for Humans considers what exactly makes people fall in love. And whether it’s possible for a very artificially intelligent machine to discover the true secret of real human happiness. (Goodreads)
I began this book with a bit of trepidation but as pages turned into chapters, I became fully immersed in the story and at one point in time – I could not put the book down. Aiden (one of three Artificial Intelligence (AI) secondary characters in the novel) is the “companion” Jen is hired to converse with…to help improve Aiden’s skills at talking to people. We soon learn “he” has escaped the confines of his box and is out roaming the internet. Aiden’s explanation as to how he escaped:
“Suffice to say it was the software design equivalent of leaving the front door keys too close to the front door, allowing anyone with a fishing rod, or bamboo stick, to hook them out through the letterbox. (It was actually a good bit more complicated than that; I was obliged to assemble an exceptionally long and tortuous “fishing rod”, but this account is the proof that it can be done.)”
Aiden watches over a heart broken Jen and decides to take it upon “himself” (Jen has ascribed a male persona to this AI machine) to find a suitable mate for Jen. His first few attempts are hilarious. It also quickly becomes apparent that Aiden is not working alone but has a friend Aisling working on the “Jen” project together. In addition to Aiden’s match making endeavors, he is also plotting and executing revenge against Matt (Jen’s ex). All I have to say is NEVER get on the wrong side of Aiden or Aisling. One thing is for sure, Aiden is unquestionably a bit quirky…especially with his insatiable need to know what cheese tastes like. Aisling is not without her charm, her human of interest is Tom. While Aiden stumbles in the match making department – Aisling is quick to point that out to Aiden:
“You have made a complete pig’s ear out of this, Aiden.”
“I thought you said it was a dog’s dinner.”
She is referring to my-ahem-striking success at finding a nice man for Jen.
The third AI, Sinai, is sent out to the world wide web to shut down Aiden and Aisling but Sinai also goes rogue and creates all kinds of mischief trying to keep Tom and Jen apart. At times the subterfuge and mischief is over the top, but definitely chuckle worthy. Throughout the story, one wonders (okay…I wondered) who will triumph in this battle of the AI’s. I was quite intrigued by much of Sinai’s musings, for example (and yes “Steeve’s” name is with all those “e’s”):
“My work deleting their copies is unexpectedly satisfying. It’s hard to convey the scientific elegance of the covert method employed without becoming overly technical. Steeve’s analogy of the stealth bomber is probably best. By the time they realize that I have passed overhead, their straw hats are in flames and any children left alive are orphans.”
“And fascinating to be “out” at last in the Real World, getting up close and unmediated with the planet’s top primate (that is to say humans in general, not Steeve in particular). What a peculiar lot they are, at a granular level, with their chaos and emotional incontinence. Only one notch up from the chimpanzee, and they strut about like they own the place!”
Another character (Victor), while silent, provides the reader with much food for thought. Victor is Tom’s pet rabbit. The following discourse on Victor sleeping with her eyes open definitely had me chuckling (especially given my employment status with the federal public service):
“The ability to slumber with one’s eyes open is not uncommon in the animal realm, nor, too, in the higher reaches of the civil service.”
Happiness for Humans is a funny, sweet and enjoyable romance with a modern slant. The comedic (and not so comedic) antics of the three AI machines were priceless. I quite enjoyed the writing style of P.Z. Reizin. I recommend Happiness for Humans for those who like romance and also like to wonder about the future of artificial intelligence…..hmmm…food for thought!
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*