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Β© Christopher Bouix - Γ‰ditions Au diable vauvert, 2022

Alfie is a science fiction thriller novel written by French author Christopher Bouix, published in 2022. The story is told by Alfie, the artificial intelligence of a powerful home automation system.

Alfie is an high-end AI-based home automation system made by AlphaCorp. Implemented and connected to every life aspect of a common family house, Alfie is an helpful assistant providing various useful services. While trying itself to better understand this strange species that humans are. However, one day, something happens. Lies, fighting marks, people disappearance, what’s going on with this normal family with no story ? Alfie is puzzled, unable to understand what’s happening there. Is it hallucinating or did something bad happened ?

I’ve discovered Alfie by luck, while seeing some good reviews on a reading forum. The plot interested me and I must say this book is great. At first, I was afraid of a regular “AI is evil” story. It was a good surprise actually that points various topics I’m sensitive on, mostly privacy.

The story is told by Alfie. The system boots and discover its home. It identifies the various inhabitants : the father, the mother, the two daughters, and the cat. While learning about them, Alfie runs several deep learning procedures to enhance its interaction capabilities. It’s a very candid system that discovers what are humans and uses the huge amount of data available on the Internet to get better. However, Alfie quickly learns something troubling for it : humans are inconsistent and full of contradictions. That’s what the system conceal into its personal journal of its own evolution.

For instance, Alfie tries to communicate with the cat who ignore it. Also, it tries to understand the behaviour of the youngest daughter, a 5 years old full of energy girl. The oldest one is a teenager, a typical one, with their signature “youngsters language” that system assimilate to Aramaic. And so on, only helped by its various behaviour and sentiment analysis algorithms.

The book is written with small chapters, some are just a few lines, telling life story parts of the family from Alfie’s perspective. Or its own studies of the humans. Because of this writing, you always want to continue. It’s a very ironic narration because of the erratic behaviour of its owners, Alfie is always puzzled and intrigued. The other part I’ve enjoyed in this book is the distopic over-connected society it depicts. Basically, AlphaCorp is a merge of Google, Facebook, or Amazon. It’s an all-mighty big tech company that act on every stage. The story tells about people activity surveillance and data collection that is used by their various algorithms to serve their customers. Basically, the reason the family installed Alfie was to reduce their insurance fee. At the price of being always tracked by the system which uploads every part of their life and monitor each behaviours. The story is very funny in fact. The thriller part is Alfie’s investigation of a suspected murder.

I was also impressed by how the story was accurate in technical terms. The artificial intelligence concepts are well mastered and nicely exposed in this thriller. As a science fiction book, Alfie is a little too much sentient compared to our current AI level, but its evolution is very credible.

So yes, I’ve enjoyed Alfie.

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