Descender by author Jeff Lemire, Illustrations Dustin Nguyen
Descender is a science fiction graphic novel that primarily deals with the question of when an AI becomes human (or vice versa). There are many books and movies that cover this topic and many even do it well. Descender stands out amongst the graphic novels of this type with its gorgeous artwork and gutwrenching emotions.
The artwork is all magnificent water color done by Dustin Nguyen. The entire book is painted with such care that you’d be proud to display any single page on the walls of your home. This alone makes this book memorable and worthy of reading.
But Jeff Lemire also brings the story up to the bar set by the art. Lemire is a master of space and galactic stories for comics and graphic novels. Descender is simply one of his many masterpieces.
Simply put, Descender is about a robot named Tim 21. He’s designed to be a companion and looks like a young boy of about 8 years old. He’s adorable and his programmed innocence makes him even more so. He awakens alone on an isolated moon not understanding that he just survived a robot genocide.
With him is his cute robot dog who has all the intelligence of an actual dog. From there he is taken in by parties with many different interests and motives for wanting to keep him alive, for now. My favorite of the whole series is Driller. A mining robot designed for drilling who keeps saying “DRILLER A KILLER” over and over. When we finally get the story of that phrase I was ready to cry. The emotions in this book really pack a punch.
The book deals with the great questions of our near future. Can robots with artificial intelligence ever be considered living? At what point does a robot have enough sentience to gain human rights? Conversely, if a human begins replacing meat parts with metal and robotic parts, do they ever give up the rights of humanity?
It is important for books and different forms of media to cover these questions now, before we actually get to that point. Because that point is coming, perhaps much sooner than you may think, and we need a framework for how to deal with these scenarios. I find myself frequently feeling sympathy for the AIs in these books so I have a feeling how I’ll react when the time does come.
Descender is a marvelously written series that any science fiction fan should add to their must read list.
5/5 robots 🤖🤖🤖🤖🤖
For more sentient AI check out Kludged Singularity
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Buy it here: Descender: The Deluxe Edition Volume 1