Read Ted Chiang's groundbreaking novella about artificial intelligence online

Ted Chiang's novella The Life Cycle of Software Objects takes a breathtakingly fresh approach to the development of artificial intelligence, and keeps you guessing with its constantly evolving plot. And now you can read the whole thing online.

We reviewed this novella last summer, and here's what we said:

Ted Chiang's new novella, The Life Cycle of Software Objects, will change how you think about A.I.... Chiang's longest work to date is pure idea crack. Writing a longer work doesn't make the award-winning short-story writer spread out his legendary inventiveness and gift for challenging the reader - if anything, he goes into overdrive. The Life Cycle of Software Objects keeps surprising you... It's not just the best book about artificial intelligence you'll read this year - it's one of the best science fiction books, period.

The novella is still available in book form for $25 over at Subterranean Press' website, but now it's also available online as part of Subterranean Press Magazine's Fall issue.

Here's how it starts:

Chapter One

Her name is Ana Alvarado, and she's having a bad day. She spent all week preparing for a job interview, the first one in months to reach the videoconference stage, but the recruiter's face barely appeared onscreen before he told her that the company has decided to hire someone else. So she sits in front of her computer, wearing her good suit for nothing. She makes a halfhearted attempt to send queries to some other companies and immediately receives automated rejections. After an hour of this, Ana decides she needs some diversion: she opens a Next Dimension window to play her current favorite game, Age of Iridium.

The beachhead is crowded, but her avatar is wearing the coveted mother-of-pearl combat armor, and it's not long before some players ask her if she wants to join their fireteam. They cross the combat zone, hazy with the smoke of burning vehicles, and for an hour they work to clear out a stronghold of mantids; it's the perfect mission for Ana's mood, easy enough that she can be confident of victory but challenging enough that she can derive satisfaction from it. Her teammates are about to accept another mission when a phone window opens up in the corner of Ana's video screen. It's a voice call from her friend Robyn, so Ana switches her microphone over to take the call.

"Hey Robyn."

"Hi Ana. How's it going?"

"I'll give you a hint: right now I'm playing AoI."

Read the rest here, but be prepared to get nothing else done until you finish reading. [Subterranean Press Magazine via Metafilter]