REVIEW: “The Final Commandment: Trey’s Story” by James Gunn

Review of James Gunn, “The Final Commandment: Trey’s Story”, Asimov’s Science Fiction January/February (2018): 26-32 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Kiera Lesley.

A cautionary tale and a twist on a rampaging AI story.

In Trey’s world – Ourworld – humans evolved along similar physical and technological lines as humans on Earth. This included the creation of increasingly intelligent machines, which eventually achieved sapience. Except, that access to this supreme intelligence does not guarantee human happiness or peace on land or in the sea.

This piece was more speculative than the previous stories in this series by Gunn. I particularly liked the machines’ co-dependent relationship with humans in this piece. Often AIs are depicted as free to run and be themselves as soon as they achieve sentience, with humans only an annoyance or something that’s getting in the way. Not the case here. Trey and the other machines have helped and been used by humans in different ways across their combined history.

The image of Trey with the two lovers coiled safe inside is a lovely one. There’s a nice symbology there about human-created machines carrying their creators, womb-like, into the stars.

The layered inevitable tragedies leading up to the conclusion also built quite well, though I found it slowed through the middle around the evolution of the sea people.

However, as with most of Gunn’s tie-in stories I find the lack of context around key elements of the world found in the novel, particularly what the Transcendental Machine is and why all of these species think it can do the things they want. Because of this I found the ending a little less satisfying and uplifting than it could have been for a stand-alone piece.

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