Friday, September 20, 2013

System error: in your favour / Iain Clement

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

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“Iain Clements is a freelance writer, originally born in the United Kingdom but currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.”


“The world is in the midst of the worst financial crisis in recorded history. The 24 hour rolling news stations are struggling to keep up with the number of banks collapsing, companies going into administration, and the wider effects these issues are having on the public.

Many experts are trying vainly to explain just what is going on, but in London's Canary Wharf district computer specialist Kate Meer understands all too well the cause of these seemingly unconnected problems. A new artificially intelligent computer system called C.A.R.L that she designed is out of her control.

As events in the world continue to spin out of control and the global financial markets embark on a roller-coaster ride, Kate has to join forces with James Gold, a notorious hacker, to try and regain control of their renegade system before it’s too late.”


The premise of artificial intelligence run amuck when an anthropomorphic computer develops a mind of its own has been done to death. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another story that treads similar ground (no story is ever completely original) and this one has potential. However, with most people having better understanding of computers and how they function, it is harder to for the reader to suspend disbelief and maintain that suspension to the end. I struggled with that some, but was mostly able. However, this wasn’t my only concern with System Error …

My other issues were largely technical. Proofing issues such as using the wrong word (“David seemed monetarily put off by the question…”) or outright typos (“‘Typical of head office not to inform tell us’ mused on the investigators.”), to start.

Then there was convoluted syntax, as in “Kate sat at her computer terminal late on Wednesday afternoon with the fading light of the sun shining through her half-lowered blinds on her floor.” What were the blinds doing on her floor? Another example, “…he would have put money on betting that this application would be rejected,” seemed a touch redundant (“would have bet” is much clearer although I guess technically he could have bet something other than money).

Last, the ending cheapened the story and whatever impact it might have had. Explaining why would be a spoiler, so I won’t say more, but the story would have been at least marginally stronger had it ended before the last chapter.


Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

A large number of proofing and copyediting misses.

Rating: ** Two stars

1 comment:

Walter Knight said...

It was probably just a problem of translating from English to American.