Genre: Tomorrow Fiction/Apocalyptic
Publication Date: 24/04/2019
The world is going to end. And while Emily can’t stop the sun killing us all, she can make these last few years a little more comfortable.
I’m generally a bit wary of books claiming to investigate what it means to be human. By all means have these themes running through your work, but if that’s the main selling point, it suggests to me that the book in question isn’t going to be very, well, fun. Happily, Emily Eternal manages to be both introspective and a rollicking adventure.
The titular Emily is an artificial consciousness (very particular about not being an Artificial Intelligence), working as a therapist in a university lab. Her main role is to help people come to terms with the impending death of the entire planet, and to be fair she’s pretty good at it. On the side, she’s also helping her creator come up with plans to ensure that something of the human race survives. I’m a big fan of stories about the legacies of civilisation, so this immediately had me hooked.
Around a third of the way through, things are kicked up a gear when the lab is attacked. This isn’t a spoiler, because the event is detailed on the blurb, but there is a lot of ground covered beforehand. With her main servers destroyed, Emily is forced to go on the run with student Jason and lawman Mayra. From there on it’s a race against time, evading sinister organisations, as Emily and her human friends try to fulfil her creator’s plans.
Emily is a fascinating character. Existing only as data, she can be seen by anyone wearing a special computer chip. For this reason, she mimics a human life, and presents as a human entity much of the time. These chips allow more than just sight, however. She can gather data from them, speak to the wearer and, most impressive, take control of the wearer’s body. This last is important, because it is the only way she can physically interact with the world. This ability leads to some fight scenes, as you’d expect, genetic manipulation, which you might not, and some truly bizarre sex scenes, which I definitely did not see coming.
The world itself is bleak, which you’d expect from a dying planet. Law and order are breaking down, the economy has already broken, and its an every man for himself wilderness out there. Thankfully, Wheaton avoids relating any of this dystopianism to current politics, which really would have distracted from the narrative. But in this dark world, Emily stands as a symbol of hope. Because in the end, hope is all that keeps people going.
Optimistic, emotionally charged, and full of action and ideas in equal measure, Emily Eternal is well worth your time.