Title: No Man’s Land
Author: Ben Magid
Genre: Science fiction
Rebel Anne Rae wouldn’t consider herself a normal teenager. In fact, she didn’t have anything to compare herself to. In the year 2054, seven years after Exodus when Mech forcibly exiled humans to the moon, Rebel was the last remaining human on Earth.
Rebel has been hiding in plain sight, working towards her singular goal: breaking through the Mech firewall to contact her people on the moon in hopes that they will rescue her. In order to survive, she has implemented a rigorous daily routine. Put on her Mech disguise, commute into “work” at the Mech’s center of operations, test the firewall blocking communications to the moon, then spend her nights foraging for human necessities, like her ever-dwindling food supply. Rinse and repeat. But her routine comes to a screeching halt when she hits a Mech with her car, an anomaly in the Mech’s automated, car-accident-free world. When she is forced to rebuild him, she suddenly finds herself in a race against time, needing to break through the firewall before the Mech discover her humanity.
No Man’s Land, the first in Ben Magid’s The Robosapien Trilogy, contains powerful messages about the dangers, and the beauty, of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Can machines feel? They’re so lifelike that it’s easy to believe they’re human. But what if they can learn to love? The author explores all of these questions and more as he develops characters readers will fall in love with, machines or not.
One of the most jarring aspects of No Man’s Land is the timeline. Though set in the future, 2054 is not that far off. The author paints a morbid picture of where the Earth is heading with humans at its helm. Mech are extremely lifelike robots that were programmed to “clean up” the Earth, resulting in the banishment of humans to the moon. In the years following their banishment, plastic disappeared from the oceans, blue skies returned free of smog, and wildlife thrived. Though Rebel both longs for and celebrates humanity, she can’t help but recognize the amount of good Mech brought to the planet. It is one of the most moving aspects of Rebel’s story.
Although the concept, setting, and plot are fully engaging, readers may feel that some of the details are unrealistic. Rebel was twelve when Exodus occurred. She hiked 915 miles to her family’s cabin in the woods with essentially no supplies. While that is incredible in and of itself, add in that she knew how to make a splint out of a magazine, could recognize signs of a concussion, and was able to locate the remote cabin in the woods using just a map and a compass, and it may seem a little too convenient. Readers may also find it unlikely that she was actually the only human left on Earth after Exodus. Though there seemed no real way for her to verify this, it is stated many times throughout the book. While No Man’s Land could have used another passthrough to correct grammatical errors and typos, they in no way detracted from the story.
No Man’s Land gives a whole new meaning to the term “post-apocalyptic.” This book is the perfect introduction to an engaging and dynamic series featuring the most debated aspects of AI, all packaged within a fictional story. Readers will find themselves eager to continue with Rebel’s journey as she takes on a whole new, shocking enemy.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars