Factor Reviews: Roboteer by Alex Lamb

So often when you read a new hard SF book by a previously unpublished author it’s a disappointment, with predictable tropes and corny dialogue. Alex Lamb bucks this trend as hard as is physically possible. Roboteer is not just a brilliant first novel, it’s a brilliant novel full stop.

Set in the future when colonisation has occurred but the human race is clinging on and fighting amongst itself, the book stars Will, a man bred to interface with robots to ensure his home world of Galatea can survive the onslaught from its Earth-based enemies.

In this epic plot we encounter a dizzying array of worlds and environments, with Lamb beautifully depicting their appearance and mood. Every region encountered has its own unique sense, and you get a clear idea of how humanity’s fraught history has allowed each place to come to be.

The characters are excellently realised, with the neurodiverse, genetically enhanced Galateans in particular offering a wonderful variety of deeply explored personalities. No character feels underdeveloped, which is a particularly impressive feat given that some could have easily been made weak stereotypes.

There is also the matter of the space battles. They are truly awesome. Lamb is one of the best writers of combat I’ve ever encountered, depicting dogfights, mad scrambles for survival and moments of chilling tension wonderfully. If Roboteer is ever made into a movie, I expect his deftly written battle sequences to be faithfully recreated.

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Throughout the story, the book poses genuinely searching moral conundrums about the future of the human race, but in a way that adds to the mood and flow, rather than hitting you round the head with morality.

Simply put, Lamb is a brilliant writer: the dialogue and battles are excellently constructed, the book’s pace is spot on and there is never a sense that you know what is about to happen. It’s quite honestly an utter joy to read.

The world is also so brilliantly realised, rooted in logic and science. It’s fantastical without feeling absurd, and genuinely feels like a realistic portrayal of humanity’s future – should certain chains of events occur – albeit one that is fresh and devoid of the usual predictable notions.

Publisher Gollancz has already confirmed that Lamb will be publishing a sequel, and I’m delighted to hear it. This book doesn’t just deserve to be given a sequel; it deserves to be made into a cult classic. Expect far more to come from this brilliant new SF writer.

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Source: Wired

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Skydio unveils its obstacle-dodging, thrill-seeking, AI-powered drone

An autonomous drone startup founded by former MIT researchers has today launched its R1, a fully autonomous flying camera that follows its subjects through dense and challenging environments.

In a promotional video, launched to introduce the autonomous camera, R1 can be seen following an athlete as she parkours her way through dense woodland.

The drone’s makers Skydio have explained that the camera combines artificial intelligence, computer vision, and advanced robotics and works by anticipating how people move, so R1 can make intelligent decisions about how to get the smoothest, most cinematic footage in real-time.

“The promise of the self-flying camera has captured people’s imaginations, but today’s drones still need to be flown manually for them to be useful,” said Adam Bry, CEO and co-founder of Skydio.

“We’ve spent the last four years solving the hard problems in robotics and AI necessary to make fully autonomous flight possible. We’re incredibly excited about the creative possibilities with R1, and we also believe that this technology will enable many of the most valuable drone applications for consumers and businesses over the coming years.”

Launching today is the Frontier Edition of R1, which is aimed at athletes, adventurers, and creators.

This version of R1 is powered by the Skydio Autonomy Engine, enabling it to see and understand the world around it so that it can fly safely at speeds of upto 25mph while avoiding obstacles.

The autonomous drone is fitted with 13 cameras, which gives it the ability to map and understand the world in real-time, allowing it to be fully autonomous and independently capture footage that in Skydio’s words “once required a Hollywood film crew” and will “enable a new type of visual storytelling”.

The R1 “Frontier Edition” is available for order now on Skydio’s website for $2,499.