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Serengeti by J. B. Rockwell

Serengeti - J. B. Rockwell, Elizabeth Wiley

Serengeti, complete with AI brain and human crew, is a Valkyrie class warship with the Meridian Alliance fleet. Their task was to analyze the area surrounding the spot where the Meridian Alliance scout ships disappeared during their mission to search out the Dark Star Revolution fleet. However, they find almost nothing of the scout ships, which is disturbing. Then the Meridian Alliance fleet shows up under the command of the AI Brutus. The arrival of the Dark Star Revolution fleet completes the guest list and the party gets started. Things don’t go well for the Meridian Alliance in general and Serengeti in specific. Pretty soon, she is stranded in deep space with little power, heavy damages, and a reduced crewlist. Drastic measures must be taken to preserve what is left of the crew.

I really, really enjoyed this book. The initial scouting mission by Serengeti and then the near-epic space battle between the two fleets was totally gripping. The second half of the book is all about Serengeti the AI and her attempts to save her human crew. It’s a much different pace but I still quite enjoyed it. First, I really liked this symbiotic relationship between the AIs and their human crews. For Serengeti the AI, her captain, Hendrickson, was a jewel of a commander and somewhat of a friend. From the beginning, we see how Serengeti cares for her crew, tries to assist without embarrassing or overshadowing them (such as is the case with Finley). Later, once the crew has been placed in cryopods to conserve resources, we learn more about how Hendrickson became Serengeti’s captain. I was much amused by the friendships between the AIs and how some of them found the AI Brutus to be too set in his ways.

After the big space battle and Serengeti’s failed attempt to flee, the remaining crew are put in an escape vessel, but the locking clamps can’t be released. Serengeti has lost too much power and she herself must sleep in order to survive. She tasks a small worker robot, who she names Tig, to be in charge of the remaining bots. My one little quibble is that the bots from here on out become a bit anthropomorphized. I still liked the book, but now it was much more WALL-E  instead of Hal, not that Serengeti is homicidal. The book goes from this mostly serious, nearly epic to this tiny hope of survival in these cutsy-wutsy bots. It did take me a few minutes to switch gears. Both halves of the book are good, but they are totally different paces.

The story’s end does build the suspense. Serengeti and her remaining bots are doing their best to keep the crew alive and the ship on target for the nearest inhabitable scrap of dirt. The tension mounts as Serengeti looses more and more abilities, as resources dwindle. They are in space for decades. At the end, we aren’t sure if Serengeti the AI makes it, though there is hope. The author did a great job in wringing some emotions out of me with Serengeti the AI.

I won a copy of this book from the author via The Audio Book Reviewerwith no strings attached.

The Narration: Elizabeth Wiley did a great job with the narration. I liked all the funny robot sounds. Her voice for Brutus and Hendricks were also very good and masculine. As the story required it, she did well with imbuing the characters with emotions.