Book Review: Semmant

SemmantSemmant by Vadim Babenko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

He has done it. Bogden Bogdanov has created Semmant, a sentient entity living inside his computer. Semmant has made the global stock market his pawn, using it both to build Bogdanov’s wealth as well as express his own maturation. He has other vehicles of course - art, music, literature. But none so expressive as his trading. Unfortunately, his existence is linked irrevocably to Bogdanov, and his life is currently in turmoil due to his relationship with one Lidia Alveres. Semmant must watch, helplessly, as human emotion and cruelty takes root in his processors, and may destroy all that he has created.

Semmant explores the best and worst of humanity through the vehicle of an artificial life form struggling to find his place in this world. The story is narrated by Bogdanov and while he is not necessarily the most likable character, his voice is consistent and unwavering, much like the man himself. He presents as an arrogant scientist, but an arrogant scientist who can back up his claims, much to the reader’s chagrin. In some ways it’s a bit of a psychological thriller, given the setting from which the story of Semmant is told. This is my first introduction to Russian author Babenko, and I was blown away both by the intelligence and complexity of the writing, as well as the intricate integration of the most base human emotions and realization that yes, relationships can just cause trouble, regardless of the algorithm. I should note there was some pretty graphic language and sex scenes (sex always gets in the way, doesn’t it?), so keep this one legal and over 18.

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