Book Review

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams

by Theo Henson — 2022-01-12

This is an interesting book, to say the least. It was originally published online, free to download, although you can buy a printed-on-demand version (which I did, and would recommend). The fact that it's a short, self-published sci-fi novel written by someone technically-minded really shows; it's eccentric and disturbing—cult classic material.

The main premise is something that others have theorized about: the technological singularity. This singularity is a point when, due to the accelerating progress of technology, the state of humanity becomes permanently changed. Most often, as in The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, this point is crossed by some form of artificial intelligence (the titular “Prime Intellect”). The result is an unrecognizable reality, not explicitly good or bad, but an interesting setting to explore—and the characters sure do “explore” it. More on that exploration: there are depictions of extreme, and gory, sex and violence. These scenes do end up relevant to the plot, although they often feel awkward.

I thought that the ending was satisfying, as it poses what seems to be the main question that the author wants to consider. You get the sense that the author once thought (or still does, partially) that technological progress is a sort of desirable existential objective, but in the face of a dissatisfying, inevitable singularity, he asks: what's the point?