Louisa Hall delivers a smart and affecting sci-fi novel designed to make you think about your surroundings.01
Hall explores changes in technology and the origins of Artificial Intelligence and how they have altered the way we connect through the five distinct voices.
These include Stephen R Chinn, who is imprisoned in the year 2040 due to his development of lifelike dolls; Gaby White, a young girl who owned a doll and is struggling to come to terms with its loss by speaking to software programme MARY3; Alan Turing’s correspondence from his youth to his conviction; Mary Bradford, a pilgrim making the long journey by ship to the new world; and the Dettmans, a couple who have grown apart and detached.
Hall plays with form, reminding the reader of the many different communication mediums. The poignant conversation with Gaby is a messenger chat, with the software programme often shouting at the void. Turing is writing personal letters to Christopher Morcom’s mother, his first love from school who passed away at the age of 17. It makes for an incredibly moving insight into grief and the things we do to persevere.
The pages of Mary Bradford’s diary from the 1600s raise relevant issues regarding the muting of women’s voices in history. Gaby’s narrative intertwines with Chinn’s in relations to his creation born out of love for his daughter, who he wanted to give the gift of “the pleasure of devoting one’s life to another”, but it also throws up questions about the way in which young girls’ potentials are often stifled by society’s constraints. The Dettman letters observe a man reaching out to his wife charting the often petty taunts and craving for attention.
The riches of the human experience and the faltering memory are navigated by Hall, making Speak an engaging, poignant and unputdownable read.