Review: ‘Speak’ by Louisa Hall

“If there’s anything I know, it’s that the most human machines will only ever serve to make us more human,” says programmer Stephen R. Chinn near the end of Louisa Hall’s second novel, “Speak.” Chinn is but one of the narrators in Hall’s many-voiced novel, and far from the most sympathetic, but it is tempting to read his statement as the central premise of “Speak,” an artificial intelligence narrative that deals in intimacy, grief and other human experiences. Giving voice to the yearning for human connection across continents, centuries and even differing forms of consciousness, “Speak” is quietly sublime. Five narratives comprise “Speak,” each written in the form of diaries, correspondence and transcripts, a conceit that has drawn comparisons to David Mitchell. In one narrative set in the near-future, Chinn…


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