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Speak by Louisa Hall


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Highly Recommended.

You might imagine that a novel about the development of an Artificial Intelligence might be dry or technical. Louisa Hall’s wonderful novel is anything but. This is a warm and rich tale of loss and love written in prose that is often poetic but always pulls you through. It should appeal to fans of David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood.

From a 17th century girl’s diary (I loved the spirit and courage of Mary Bradford especially), to the 2040 confessions of the man accused of creating machines, like Mary3, that are too human, via imagined letters of troubled scientific genius Alan Turing; this is a gripping weaving together of several very different stories. In less controlled hands this could be a problem but Speak’s threads come together to be always coherent and always touching. This is a story about how words and memories work to make us our characters and to allow us to be with other people. It’s about how we define ourselves and how we work out what love us.

Artificial Intelligences are becoming the stuff of reality but this SF novel shows that the search for AI says most about us and what makes us human. E.M. Forster implored us to “Only Connect” – Louisa Hall’s novel is all about that. ~ Simon Spanton


Speak by Louisa Hall

She cannot run. She cannot walk. She cannot even blink. As her batteries run down for the final time, all she can do is speak. Will you listen? From a pilgrim girl's diary, to a traumatised child talking to a software program; from Alan Turing's conviction in the 1950s, to a genius imprisoned in 2040 for creating illegally lifelike dolls: all these lives have shaped and changed a single artificial intelligence - MARY3. In Speak she tells you their story, and her own. It is the last story she will ever tell, spoken both in celebration and in warning. When machines learn to speak, who decides what it means to be human?


'SPEAK is that rarest of finds: a novel that doesn't remind me of any other book I've ever read. A complex, nuanced, and beautifully written meditation on language, immortality, the nature of memory, the ethical problems of artificial intelligence, and what it means to be human.' -- Emily St. John Mandel, author of STATION ELEVEN

'Beautifully illustrates the human longing at the heart of our obsession with technology ... a hypnotic read' Guardian

'Transfixing' New York Times

'Brilliant' Huffington Post

'Incredible' Buzzfeed

'Hypnotic' Guardian

'A masterpiece' NPR

About the Author

Louisa Hall

Louisa Hall was born in Philadelphia in 1982 and grew up in the nearby suburb of Haverford. She graduated from Harvard in 2004 and went on to play squash professionally for three years. She is now completing her Ph.D. in literature at the University of Texas at Austin, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Her poems have been published in journals such as The New Republic, The Southwest Review, and Ellipsis. The Carriage House is her first novel.

Author photo © Ben Steinbauer

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Book Info

Publication date

25th February 2016


Louisa Hall

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Orbit an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group


368 pages


Science Fiction
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Science fiction



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