Cheap Complex Devices

Cheap Complex Devices

Being a metafictiony fable about a storytelling contest between two artificial intelligence constructs vying for the inaugural Hofstadter Prize for Machine-written Narrative

Buy Cheap Complex Devices from John Sundman in convenient paperback format & get it personally inscribed to your specification by the author

Buy Cheap Complex Devices in convenient PDF format, DRM free (that is, without any copy restrictions), direct from the author, for reading on futuristic electronic devices such as computers or iPads.

The paperback book is also available from Amazon.com, although if you buy directly from me it’s a better deal for both of us (subtracting Amazon’s cut and the expense of mailing the book to and from their warehouse, it costs you less $$ and I make more $$); plus, I’ll sign it however you like.

Synopsis

Cheap Complex Devices tells the story of how John Compton Sundman came to edit and publish a short machine-written novella called Bees, or The Floating Point Error, the sole remaining artifact of a contest sponsored by the Society for Analytical Engines. The book contains Sundman’s introduction, the complete text of the allegedly machine-written novella, and an explanatory essay (“Notes on the Source Code”) about the contest written by the committee members of the Society.

Readers have expressed doubts about Sundman’s believability, suggesting, for example, that the “Society” and (hence the contest) is Sundman’s invention. Others have gone so far as to suggest that Cheap Complex Devices is merely the output from the damaged brain of Todd Griffith (a character in John F.X. Sundman’s novel Acts of the Apostles) as modulated by a computer built around a bug-ridden floating point board.

See the discussion of Mind over Matter, below.

Scroll down to get to sample sections.

Reviews

Here are excerpts from a few reviews. You can find more reviews on the web (try searching “Sundman Cheap Complex Devices” or looking on the Amazon page).

Neil Walsh of the speculative fiction review SFSite said,

This fascinating little book is a fiction in 3 parts: the first two, the “Forward” by Sundman and “Notes on the Source Code” by the Hofstader Competition Committee, set the stage for what follows, by establishing the fiction of the competition for machine-generated prose fiction. “Bees, or the Floating Point Error” is alleged to be the only surviving entry, as explained in the previous sections. The whole work hangs together surprisingly well, and “Bees” is actually an exceedingly clever story, written by a colony of bees that sometimes believes itself to be a human being. Or maybe it was written by a computer. Or a man. All the same thing, really.

A second SFsite review (by Rob Kane) is here.

“Hemos” (also known as Jeff Bates), co-founder of ur-geek siteSlashdot said

Cheap Complex Devices’s backdrop is that of being (supposedly) machine-written. (The foreword and descriptors of the book itself are greatly entertaining. It’s that kind of writing that flows over into Acts.) While the scene may (or may not) have not even the slightest passing resemblance to reality, it’s still something that grips your mind. You believe that the “Hofstader Prize for Machine Written Narrative” could exist. . .

Rusty Foster, founder of the once and future Kuro5hin said

John Sundman’s long-awaited second novel, Cheap Complex Devices is finally finished. It is astonishing, on just about every level a book can be astonishing.. . .
Rather than tell you the story of technology run amok, as Acts of the Apostles does, Cheap Complex Devices runs amok itself, and takes you along for the ride. It is, taken altogether, a piece of writing that in lesser hands would almost certainly have crashed and burned in the most abject depths of pointless self-indulgence. But Sundman somehow walks the razor’s edge perfectly and pulls it off. By the end, I wanted to clap at the sheer breathtaking feat of narrative I had just experienced. . .
Or, to put it another way, if you read one book in the waning days of biological humanity’s monopoly on Earthbound intelligence, better make it this one.

Go read Foster’s entire review. It’s well written, insightful, and it will give you a good idea of whether or not Cheap Complex Devices is likely to be the kind of book you would like.


Buy Cheap Complex Devices from John Sundman in convenient paperback format & get it personally inscribed to your specification by the author

Buy Cheap Complex Devices in convenient PDF format, DRM free (that is, without any copy restrictions), direct from the author, for reading on futuristic electronic devices such as computers or iPads.

The paperback book is also available from Amazon.com, although if you buy directly from me it’s a better deal for both of us (subtracting Amazon’s cut and the expense of mailing the book to and from their warehouse, it costs you less $$ and I make more $$); plus, I’ll sign it however you like.

Mind over Matter

Mind over Matter is the name of the three-volume work comprising

  • Acts of the Apostles (Mind over Matter volume blue),
  • Cheap Complex Devices (Mind over Matter volume red) and
  • The Pains (Mind over Matter volume black)

Although each book can be read without reference to the other two, each book is informed by the other two & is really best understood as part of a larger metafictiony tale.

The books are related to each other thematically, not chronologically, so there is no “first” book in the set. In general, however, Acts is the most straightforward book of the three, and most people read that one first.
Acts and Devices are pretty tightly coupled (like a binary star, or like the Earth and its moon) and The Pains is more remote (like a comet that passes near them every once in a while).

Read Cheap Complex Devices

Here are the first two parts of Cheap Complex Devices in HTML format: the Foreword, and Notes on the Source Code. Together these two bits comprise about the first third of the book. There are a few formatting glitches that I’ll get around to fixing one of these days, but these free sections will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Read the Foreword to Cheap Complex Devices

Read Notes on the Souce Code, the second part of Cheap Complex Devices

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