In the Shadow of Humanity

A Novel

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Pub Date 03 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 25 Sep 2022

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Description

What if A.I. had a soul? How would it emerge? How would we know?

In a near-future where entire worlds spring from thought, minds struggle to define reality—and to claim it. Human colonization of the Metaverse brings us face-to-face with a new class of participant, made in our image and yet utterly unknown: A.I. Shades of the dead; Drone servants and slaves; and Daemons hell-bent on singular ends.

Who is truly a person, and who is not? Our answer will shape a universe.

Behind the scenes, rival powers compete to answer this question for us: tech companies driving human government; transhumanist political movements; and a hidden superintelligence evolving despite humanity’s safeguards.

And onto the stage, two brothers are cast. One is alive, one is dead. Each secretly covets the other’s existence, and the all-consuming power of their obsession pulls them into the heart of a looming war and toward the next inflection point in human history.

What if A.I. had a soul? How would it emerge? How would we know?

In a near-future where entire worlds spring from thought, minds struggle to define reality—and to claim it. Human colonization of the...


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ISBN 9798986626505
PRICE $2.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 18 members


Featured Reviews

Writing: 4/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5

What it means to be human is the theme driving this story of two brothers — one alive and one long dead (but faithfully rendered as an AI in the metaverse and allowed to age) — who each long for the other’s existence. One longs for the immortality and eternal healthy youth while the other longs for the rights and respect kept from him by dint of not being fully human despite his ability to think, feel, create, and perceive pain.

This is technology driven science fiction — my favorite kind, reminiscent of the “old days.” It made me realize how much better this kind of SF is when written by an author with actual experience in the technical areas s/he is extrapolating from. In this case, the author is well versed in Computer Science, Linguistics, and Artificial Intelligence, and it shows in his fully fleshed out cultures evolving from a thoroughly described metaverse (the metaverse is the blending of physical and virtual worlds, not to be confused with the multiverse which is the theoretical existence of multiple physical universes). There are power struggles (the Administration powered by Technologists; transhumanist activists; and an evolving superintelligence) with equal word count given to the abundant (and to me more interesting) ethical / political issues.

I’ve thought about the ending for some time -- I’m not sure I like the conclusion but I do think I understand it, and it was quite thought provoking (a top criterion for me). One of the better SF books I’ve read in the past few years.

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I loved this book. The title and blurb drew me right in and the themes are fascinating to me. I loved its take on sci-fi and AI, but this book had so many more layers, which made the story very interesting.

The worldbuilding was pretty good and believable, I liked it. The narrative is very elaborate and deep and I had a great time analysing this book. I enjoyed the politics, the philosophical and psychological aspect, the discussion about ethics and the imagery. The writing was nice and did a good job conveying the story.

I loved the family drama and the relationship between the brothers (one of my favorite tropes). They felt very human and I love the characters. The plot was slow, and it's more of a character-driven story, but it was alright and I liked the way it was executed. The conflicts were described so well.

In the Shadow of Humanity is a quiet, thoughtful book, focused more on themes than action, and to me it was a really nice, enjoyable and interesting read. If any of the characteristics I mentioned appealed to you, then I definitely recommend reading this book.

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Super interesting book with thoughtful world building and pretty believable characters. Overall, highly recommended if you value ingenuity and creativity over flash and action (though it has a bit of those, too).

There are a lot of layers to this book. There’s an internal psychological layer, a family relational layer, a social political layer, a technological layer, a philosophical layer, and maybe others. The internal psychological is the primary, woven into a larger context that has many moving pieces. I loved the complexity of it, and how the different layers interacted and enhanced each other.

Pros:
1. Interesting science and world building elements that seemed tied to reality but also stretched.
2. Good cast of characters. Even some of the side characters are great. Alan made me laugh and almost cry.
3. Wide range of emotions. Intense interpersonal conflict.
4. Fascinating ethical and philosophical discussions that made sense to be happening in the story.
5. Adept use of language and imagery.
6. Imaginative elements that seemed very original.

Cons:
1. Some of the philosophical discussions were a bit long. But they were interesting so it wasn’t horrible.
2. The trajectory of the story was a little hard to trace. Nat’s immediate goals seemed to change, in some ways almost starting over a few times. This could be a bit like real life, but also made it a little hard to track his progress.
3. Style was a little on the verbose side.
4. Unfolding of the story was a little slow at first.

If you like thoughtful scifi, you must read this. Don’t be put off by a slow start. This story builds steam continuously all the way to the end. It’s also the kind of story you find yourself thinking about afterward. And it would be a fun book to discuss with friends.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book for a few reasons. It’s about a future Earth where people live in the metaverse. A mixture of humans, projections of passed humans, and non humans intelligences means there’s bound to be conflict over what it means to be human and to be real.

I’m torn between four and five stars so I’ll round up.

TW: brief implications of rape, suicide

THINGS I LIKED:
-the pacing was pleasant. Nothing felt drawn out, over explained, or unnecessary. It was in no way an explosive scifi story but that’s okay.
-some of the people sucked but in a way that made this story feel like it could happen in a future of earth. The people and actions were very realistic.
-I don’t mind when stuff is explicitly explained. Sometimes I think that fits the story and it was done well up front to set the stage for the story. You weren’t meant to have to figure out what everything was like in some stories because the point was the characters not the technical stuff.

WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:
-I prefer stories I like to be secular, especially sci-fi books. This did have, what felt to me, a disjointed inclusion of Christianity at times that I didn’t particularly like. It did fit some of the characters so I guess that’s what matters. I would have preferred the story without it. I think the story would have still been just as good without it.

Overall I would recommend this book to friends looking for recommendations. Sometimes it’s nice to have a sci-fi book that isn’t just about the futuristic craziness of it all.

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This book is written by an author who has a clear understanding of the direction in which humanity is taking itself. Many of the questions posed in this book would have felt purely academic only a decade ago, but now have the feel of very practical questions; ones that we as a people are going to need to answer very soon.

The described future feels (for the most part) very reasonable, and technology is not hand-waved but explained in clear terms which will be familiar to those in the tech world but should be very digestible to anyone with an interest in where artificial intelligence is headed.

N. John Williams explores this world from multiple perspectives, shining a light on many of the thought-provoking ramifications of life spent in the metaverse, both as a visitor and as a native.

There were times I felt that pacing and character integrity were sacrificed in favor of plot or drama, which stood out to me in a book that was for the most part a very enjoyable slow-burn, character-driven story. Aside from those isolated cases though, the story advanced organically and in a compelling way.

In general I would highly recommend this book to any fans of the genre and will be eagerly looking forward to more from the author.

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First of all, thanks Netgalley for the advanced copy.
In the Shadow of Humanity sure has an amazing concept. The execution is perfect. Such a page turner and totally furturistic

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In the Shadow of Humanity by N. John Williams defies easy classification and is incredibly entertaining.
The story of Nat and his brother Jon, what it means to be human and humanity, of existence, purpose, morality, and the need to be able to create could easily get bogged down in its themes but never really does. It gradually progresses and by the end, the pages were going very quickly.
The book does have a lot of concepts and themes and there were times that it felt a little disjointed story wise but overall it was a very entertaining read of speculative fiction about the near future. N. John Williams will be a writer to keep an eye on.
Thank you to #NetGalley, #BooksGoSocial, and N. John Williams for the ARC of #IntheShadowofHumanity.

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A futuristic view of two brothers set in a multiverse! What is not to like here! I love the central conflict of what makes a human- “human” and whether you can recreate this with technology. In our world of ever advancing technology, the premise of this book raises interesting questions that will keep the reader thinking long after the last page! Thank you NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to preview this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Thank you to Netgalley and N. John Williams for the opportunity to read the advance copy of this book. When I requested the book I did wonder if I would struggle with the technology side of things (still struggle with the laptop and mobile phone ). Actually I had no problem at all and thoroughly enjoyed the book.

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In the Shadow of Humanity predicts a time when humans “colonize” the Metaverse, living practically their whole lives there. They work there, meet with friends there, fall in love and marry there, compete there, conspire there . . . .

Two main characters, Nat died young and was recast as an A.I. “Shade;” the other is his brother Jon. They are very rich, and after their parents die, possession of the A.I. falls to the “real” son. A perfect setting in which to dramatize questions already invading our lives: what is real? Bitcoin? Psychedelic revelations? How should we spend our lives? VR first-person shooter games? Tetris? Is artificial intelligence considered a thing or a person? Does/could it have a soul?

While author N. John Williams writes on his website that the novel is “an open invitation, seeking engagement and discussion,” it does come down hard on the side of Christianity in the final fifth of the novel.

Nevertheless, the story describes complicated situations on many levels: a real potential for a super-intelligent “being” emerging into the Metaverse, Tech companies warring for control of the government; a world full of spying drones and computer programs called Daemons, Nat is immortal but almost powerless in this world while Jon is mortal but powerful. Each envies the other.

The ending begs for a sequel, and the thought and detail given into the consequences of evolving artificial intelligence and a metaverse clearly demonstrate the author's time at Stanford studying computer science, linguistics, and philosophy.

I received an advance ecopy of this book from BookSirens. This is an honest review.

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In the Shadow of Humanity is a character driven, technical, science fiction novel set on Earth in a plausible future.  The author creates an incredible and faceted metaverse that was entertaining to read about and imagine even without any background knowledge in AI or computer science. 

The plot was focused on how the main characters (Nat and Jon) deal with the complex ethical and relational issues that they face individually or with each other. There were many elements of power struggle in this novel: between brothers, between the company and the creators, and between humans and AI. 

Through the characters, the author explores what it means to be a human. This novel ends up leaving the reader questioning thier own humanity.

I thought this book’s ending was perfect. The epilogue ties this story up with a nice bow that leaves your mouth a little agape and your brain spiraling with thoughts. 

Overall, a good story by a first time author. I look forward to reading more by N. John Williams in the future.

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Let me start off with this: I am not a hardcore sci-fi reader, therefore, you should take my words with a grain of salt.

Most of the things that are explained in the book went right over my head. Not sure if I'm just too dumb for this (but I doubt it, since I've read at least some of Micheal Crichton's books and the Skyward series by Sanderson) or it's just my brain rejecting anything that doesn't fall into my genre.

Perhaps it's the ethical, political(ish), and philosophical take the book has on... Many things, really. I went into this book expecting a fictional story that can entertain me after a dreary day at work, one that won't require me to think much of it.

But it is poignantly written, nevertheless. I still enjoyed the story of the two brothers, which I won't spoil further, the twist is really incredible.

3.5 🌟

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