Artificial intelligence systems have advanced greatly, but the Mk. XX is not designed to operate with complete autonomy. It is designed to have a human commander responsible for strategic decisions and tactical override. Sonny is quite large - on the order of sixteen thousand tons, and armed with the kind of firepower you'd expect from something with the mass of a battleship.
But that's beside the point here. The précis of the novel, The Road to Damascus is:
When a ruthless political regime seizes power on a world struggling to recover from alien invasion, a former war hero finds herself leading a desperate band of freedom fighters. Kafari Khrustinova, who fought Deng infantry from farmhouses and barns, finds herself struggling to free her homeworld from an unholy political alliance, headed by the charismatic and ambitious Vittori Santorini, which has seduced her young daughter with its propaganda and subverted the planet's Bolo, using the war machine to crush all political opposition. To free her homeworld, Kafari must somehow cripple or kill the Bolo she once called friend. Unit SOL-0045, "Sonny," is a Mark XX Bolo, self-aware and intelligent. When Sonny's human commander is forced off-world, Sonny tries to navigate his way through ambiguous moral and legal issues, sinking into deep confusion and electronic misery. He eventually faces a dark night of the soul, with no guarantee that he will understand-let alone make-the right decision.I'm reading it now. I came across a few paragraphs last night that I felt the need to share, editing only those parts specific to the world of the book, because as far as I'm concerned it applies right here, right now:
(The party) is composed of two tiers. The lower tier produces many outspoken members who make their demands known to the upper tier. The lower tier is derived from the inner-city population that serves as the base of the party. The lower tier's members are generally educated in public school systems and if they aspire to advanced training, they are educated in facilities provided by the state. This wing constitutes the majority of (the party's) membership, but contributes little or nothing to party theory or platform. It votes the party line and is rewarded with cash payments, subsidized housing, subsidized education, and occasional preferential employment in government positions. The lower tier provides only a handful of clearly token individuals allowed to serve in high offices.I'm by no means a fan of Pat Buchanan, but I think he was absolutely correct when he said:
The upper tier, which includes most of the party's management, virtually all the appointed and elected government officials, and all of the party's decision-makers, is drawn exclusively from suburban areas where wealth is a fundamental criterion for admittance as a resident. These party members are generally educated at private schools and attend private colleges. They are not affected by food-rationing schemes, income caps or taxation laws, as the legislation drafted and passed by members of their social group inevitably contains loopholes that effectively shelter their income and render them immune from unpleasant statues that restrict the lives of lower-tier party members and all nonparty citizens.
(The party) leadership recognizes that in return for supporting a seemingly populist agenda, they can obtain all the votes they require to remain in power. Even the most cursory analysis of their actions and attitudes, however, indicates that they are not populists but, in fact, are strong antipopulists who actively despise their voting base. This....is proven by their efforts to reduce public educational systems to a level most grade-school children (in other countries) have surpassed, with the excuse that this curriculum is all that the students can handle. They have made the inner-city population base totally dependent on the government, which they control.
Our two parties have become nothing but two wings of the same bird of prey.