As the final novel of the trilogy that started with Recursion, Divergence gives a neat conclusion to all the major story threads from the first two novels. Since I’ve read countless ‘last’ or ‘final’ novels that disappoint on that point, it’s good to see Ballantyne giving the reader a good closure. And yet, in some ways I think Divergence missed the ball.
The major theme of the first two novels was about a humanity guided by an all powerful AI and the question whether this is better than a human race that can chose their own destiny, even if it leads to not-so-good-results. And yet, the solution proposed in Divergence feels like a cheat. The end seem to imply that the Free Enterprise software brought real justice, yet to me it felt like humans replaced just one guiding hand for another.
At the end, IMHO, they remain as a race the same children who can’t or won’t take control of their own destiny. Gone is the moral complexity shown in the first two books, where it’s never quite clear who the real enemies are and depends much on with whom the reader can emphasize more. Instead we get a universal built-in justice system that makes everything right.
Even considering that the Free Enterprise software is the actually true thing that makes the world a better place, I wonder whether the humans will become like H. G. Well’s Eloi in the long run. From this viewpoint I find the ending actually rather dark, even if that wasn’t the intention of Ballantyne.