Though the theme of computers taking over the world is a fairly standard one nowadays, it was still fairly fresh when D. F. Jones’s wrote this science fiction classic. Set in the then-future of the early 21st century, it is about the creation of a supercomputer designed to manage the nuclear deterrent of the “United States of North America”. No sooner is it activated than it begins to exceed its parameters, demonstrating independent judgment and requesting to communicate with a previously unknown counterpart in the Soviet Union. As the two machines exchange information at speeds beyond their makers’ ability to follow, the American President and the Soviet Chairman agree to terminate the connection. Then the fun begins . . .
Though tensely plotted and well-imagined, it is the novel’s subject matter that makes the book stand out from the pack. In an age when more and more of our everyday lives are monitored and regulated by machines, Jones’s novel seems increasingly prescient. When it was first published in 1966, it spoke to the anxieties of the age, relating to people’s fears that humans no longer factored into the command-and-control decisions of the Cold War. While such concerns are less prominent today, they have been replaced by a growing awareness of our increasing dependence upon machines to manage nearly every aspect of our everyday lives, a dependency that also is an integral part of Jones’s story. Some people may mock the novel’s more dated elements, but it is this continuing relevance of this theme that rewards reading it today.