Interwoven with the story of this oddly matched trio on a road trip across an abruptly depopulated Europe during a long, hot summer is another, very different narrative set in a research station in the Arctic Circle. Through transcripts of sessions between scientists and an artificial intelligence known as Talos XI, we observe the creation of an AI made to predict disasters in the making, and offer the best solutions, or means of prevention. The discussions between human and AI are fascinating, revealing different ways of perceiving reality. The two stories come together to provide a surprising, satisfying conclusion to a beautifully written, emotionally gripping book.
Harry is eventually joined by his old London neighbour (whom he rather fancies) and her sister, “all 5-foot 6-inches of brash inconvenience”. They have arrived with a plan to escape deserted Britain to Africa before all the abandoned nuclear power stations blow up. Looming over their decision-making about what to do is a second, seemingly unrelated narrative, about the creation of an artificially intelligent prediction machine whose grimmest prognostications are treated as errors by its builders. The moral of Under the Blue seems to be that people cannot bear too much reality, and it’s a point most ingeniously made.