“An elegant, elegiac examination of identity, fictionality, God and humanity itself”—Tamsyn Muir
A multilayered, locked-room science fiction novella from Paul Cornell in which five digital beings unravel their existences to discover the truth of their humanity.
“The crew of the Rosebud are, currently, and by force of law, a balloon, a goth with a swagger stick, some sort of science aristocrat possibly, a ball of hands, and a swarm of insects.”
When five sentient digital beings—condemned for over three hundred years to crew the small survey ship by the all-powerful Company—encounter a mysterious black sphere, their course of action is clear: obtain the object, inform the Company, earn lots of praise.
But the ship malfunctions, and the crew has no choice but to approach the sphere and survey it themselves. They have no idea that this object—and the transcendent truth hidden within—will change the fate of all existence, the Company, and themselves.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Cornell (the Witches of Lychford series) ponders the inevitability of change in this unrewarding far-future novella set in the C Ring of Saturn. Long after Earth and Mars have been devastated by global warming, five sentient digital beings spend 300 years crewing Rosebud, a spaceship programmed by the mysterious Company to bring peace and prosperity to the humans of the solar system. When Rosebud calls the AIs together to analyze a mysterious black sphere floating nearby, the beings decide to earn glory for the Company by being the first to acquire alien technology. To explore the sphere, each shifts into a different body: Haunt, into Christopher Lee's Dracula; Diana, the luscious woman of her dreams; Quin, a giant wasp; Huge, the artist Bob Ross; and foulmouthed Bob, a vicious tiger. The sphere admits them, but their bizarre experiences exploring it yield strange déjà vu intimations, contradictory memories between crew members, and startling revelations about extraterrestrial life, the Company, and humanity itself. The slippery narrative makes it difficult to parse Cornell's shifting themes, and though the sheer strangeness of the crew's excursion into inchoate probabilities may entice some readers, many will long for something to hold on to. This unsettling glimpse of AI-dominated existence raises more questions than it answers.