Loyalty Net – Sharath Komarraju – Book Review


LoyaltyNet

Goodreads blurb: Mumbai. 2150 AD. India is the world’s biggest economic powerhouse, a global supplier of robots. At the seat of all development in the country is the IIR, the Indian Institute of Robotics. Its word is gospel. Its status is unmatched.

Then Anil Srinivasan, one of the Institute’s premier roboticists, gets murdered at a public function. Poisoned by his own robot.

The case falls into the lap of Dhaval Malik at the CBI. With his dismal case record, not solving this will mean demotion, even suspension. But the people in power counter him at every step. As the investigation leads him deeper and deeper into the maze-like edifice on which the country is built, Dhaval finds himself cornered. Desperate. Helpless.

Aid arrives, though, from an unlikely source: the robots themselves.

The journey takes Dhaval into the dark locked rooms of the IIR, where old, musty secrets linger. It takes him into the robot’s mind, and it is here that he must find his answers. In silicon perceptrons. In flashes of electric signals that create emotion and thought in the machines. In the holes of the Loyalty Net, a neural network that prevents a robot from ever hurting a human being. In his grandfather’s memory. In himself.

Science fiction and mystery combine seamlessly in this futuristic novel. Read it today.

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The first thing that strikes you about Sharath Komarraju’s Loyalty Net is how he has managed to take on Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (Wiki link to article), make it his own and weaves what essentially is a good old murder mystery around it. Being part of Sharath’s mailing list I know that he is a fan of Asimov and his writing and therefore it comes as no surprise that he does complete justice to this fundamental tenet of Asimov’s stories involving robots and robotics in general. And given that this book was Sharath’s debut I have to admit that I was quite blown away by the sheer professionalism with which this book has been written with. Not at any point in time does the book give away the fact that it was at its heart an ‘amateurish’ attempt as Sharath himself has stated more than quite a few times in the past.

Am not devoting this review to the plot itself as I am sure there will be more than enough reviews about the same, but am going to dwell on the overarching narrative arc and the broader issues that Loyalty Net deals with. Set in a utopian (or was it dystopian) future where India is ‘the superpower’ of the world courtesy its supremacy in the field of robotics and related technologies, the author questions the very basis on which this supremacy has been built on, the strictly guarded secrecy around the robotic brain, the neural networks which are built around the robotic brain and how the country carefully guards its ‘knowledge hoard’ in this regard.

Sharath raises important fundamental questions about how ethical India is when it comes to hoarding all robotic related knowledge with itself, and also wonders as to what would happen if these secrets somehow got out. Keeping the murder of an eminent roboticist as the backdrop against which the rest of the events pan out, he makes some extremely pertinent points about how unwise it is for India, or for that matter, any country to keep information which could prove beneficial to the entire world, under wraps. While it makes immense economic sense to do so the fact that it would be extremely unethical and fairly harmful to humans as a species in the long run is something that he subtly tries to bring out as the story unfolds.

On more than one occasion in this book, Sharath makes us readers wonder about this situation and question ourselves about the merits and demerits of such knowledge hoarding. And to his credit he doesn’t patronize us readers with an answer to these questions as they are inherently personal and each reader is surely bound to have his or her own correct answers to them. And that is where the author scores more than a few brownie points.

If you are a fan of science fiction, Sharath Komarraju or well written books in general, then you surely have to pick up this book and immediately read it.

Click here to purchase the book from Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the author in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

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