Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Proof of Concept

It’s almost holiday time, so that means, reading some fun books.

I downloaded this novella by Gwyneth Jones on a whim but it was a good choice. I generally don’t read anything shorter than a novel, so it was interesting to see how much of a story you can pack into not a long book (176 kindle pages).

The whole plot centres around an experiment – set in a deep cave underground. The point of the experiment is to develop a method of travel that can take people to a new world. The current world being polluted and overcrowded.


The main character is Kir, a former scavenger and orphan, was adopted by a great scientist as a young child. Saved from a terrible life and most likely premature death, Kir had the right physiology to have an AI implanted into her head. It’s separate from her thoughts but lives off the energy she can produce. It creates some interesting tension between what she needs to find out and her mentor (the scientist who adopted her). I think that would have been much more interesting to explore as a relationship had it been a full length novel.

Anyway, the experiment is called The Needle and is completely sealed from the outside world for an entire year as the experiment takes place. HOWEVER. Things start to HAPPEN. I won’t tell you the things, because I think they are better as a surprise. But it turns into a bit more mystery than science fiction – but that was no bad thing.

It was fast paced, interesting, and I really liked Kir as the main character. She was tough, smart and a bit vulnerable – a very human and easy to get a long with character. There was also interesting stuff about expressing sexual identity but just as part of the general sci-fi backdrop.

The ending spun to a close really quickly, with events escalating as the conclusion neared. The only problem for me is that I wanted more! I’m not sure how long you could have strung out a whole novel as the central conceit of the plot might become a bit obvious if it was much longer.

I also basically want the adventures of Kir and Altair (the AI) now. I think that would be brilliant.

But yeah, if you want a fun sci-fi lazy afternoon read, totally recommend giving this a whirl. Some really interesting concepts, nicely packaged with fun and interesting characters.

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