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Fiction

December 01, 1985|MICHAEL J. CARROLL

THE CYBERNETIC SAMURAI Victor Milan (Arbor House: $15.95). For the first couple of chapters of this novel the reader is deluged with tedious pseudo-science to convince one that it is possible to endow a computer with self-awareness. Fortunately, this is not the substance of the book. The point of science fiction is the "what if," in this case being: What if a computer did have an identity, a self-awareness, a soul? And Milan's exploration of this theme is entertaining and provocative. TOKUGAWA is a sentience residing within a computer, a software program that knows of itself. TOKUGAWA is "raised" in the tradition of Bushido, the chivalric code of the samurai. A number of fascinating ideas are explored: Is self-awareness a form of soul? Is it distinct from corporeality? Is sexuality dependent on physical reality? Milan, in fact, develops too many ideas to explore them with equal facility or in great depth. Nevertheless, the plot is intriguing--even exciting--once it gets going, and many of the ideas are so novel they are entertaining in themselves.

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