The Algorithm of Power by Pedro Barrento

“I need more dystopian Portuguese science fiction in my life.”  I can honestly say I’ve never said such a thing before, but now it’s interesting to think about.  One of the cool things about having a blog is that you make friends across the globe, some of whom decide that a book is absolutely worth sharing and right up your alley.  So it is that a good friend of mine from Portugal sent me a copy of Pedro Barrento’s The Algorithm of Power.  Thanks, Manuel.  He reviewed this book himself, so if you want to check that out, please feel free to do so.  He’s got some things to say.

For myself, I rather echo his views that science fiction need not be so technical as to lose the majority of those who would read it.  It’s cool to see that sort of thing every so often, and it’s even better if I can keep up, but sometimes the point is simply to ensure the story is on a level that the majority of readers can keep up… and want to.  By no means does this mean dumbing it down either.  It means approaching the story, and its message, from the perspective of the everyperson.  It means encountering an everyday culture that, in the case of a dystopian work, offers us a glimpse of a world that could happen if we don’t start acting now instead of reacting to trends.

In other words, this book does what classic science fiction does best: it offers us the pitfalls of a possible future… and perhaps the hope that it’s not too late to do something about it if we want badly enough to change it before it’s too late.  For The Algorithm of Power, the idea is that government has been taken out of the hands of fallible humans and placed in the cold efficiency of an operating system.  Unlike what most of my generation expected back in the day, this isn’t like Skynet and the Terminators.  This is more in line with what we might expect if we stay on the track we’re currently on, seen through the eyes who live and grow in that kind of a world.

What would that look like centuries from now?  How did it come to pass?  These are questions the reader will have, and the answers will be a confrontation in the tradition of the best science fiction.  The attention to detail isn’t at hyper levels as it would be if you read something like Clarke or Tolkien, but there’s more than enough here to make you want to keep looking into the next horizon and see what else is there.  More than that, it’s enough to render the story and its characters believable.  This is a functioning world with enough fuzzy edges to allow it to grow and evolve.  How it functions leaves its mark on the characters, and thusly on the reader.  Nicely executed.

On the whole, a remarkable read.  With all of the heavier learning I’ve been doing of recent, this was a welcome distraction with the side effect that it made me better appreciate some of the things in my own world.  You know that idea that you never really appreciate something until it’s gone?  This book can change that.

For those for whom translation is a consideration, The Algorithm of Power is originally written in English, so for lazy Americans like myself who only speak one language, translation is not a factor.  Go forth and enjoy.

15 thoughts on “The Algorithm of Power by Pedro Barrento

  1. A few years ago you wouldn’t have dreamt of reading something coming from Portugal, right?, let alone SF… There’s a lot a crap being published as SF in Portugal, but this book does not belong in that category. On the other hand, there are a handful of gems written in Portuguese which will never see the “light of day” (aka “be translated into English”). It was a smart move by Pedro Barrento to write it originally in English. I’m told there’s also a Portuguese Edition.

    Glad you liked, because I don’t usually recommend stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s safe to say there’s a bunch of crap being published everywhere. Lots of good stuff too for those who know where to look. And that’s the reason I took heed. You’re selective. It worked out for all the right reasons. Good stuff. Thanks, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a conundrum. I need some 20 reviews on Amazon USA (and most need to be “verified reviews”) before I can start promoting the book for real so I’m holding the Portuguese version back until I have gathered enough reviews, Otherwise the reviews will be split between the two versions and things will be even more difficult. It’s always hard to kickstart a self-published book because you need reviews to have credibility and be able to start promotion and you don’t get reviews until you promote…

      Liked by 2 people

      • The price of self-publishing is self-marketing, unfortunately. The good news is it’s easier than ever. I wonder if Goodreads would count towards those Amazon reviews since it’s owned by Amazon. You’re likely to get faster promotion there.


        • The easier path to sales is doing promotions in sites like BookBub and they require a certain number of verified reviews (specifically on Amazon USA, not on Goodreads and not even on Amazon UK). I have around 400 ratings on Goodreads but I’ve never managed to turn those into sales. There must be a way but I haven’t found it. The only path that has ever worked for me was Boobbub, ENT and similar sites.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Odd that Amazon wouldn’t use an asset. Seems wasteful all around. I wish I knew what to tell you, but marketing is out of my depth. I may have to look into this. Seems like a book should find its audience.


              • You’d know better than I would. Clearly something isn’t talking to something else. Regardless, it’ll click one way or another. Books find their audience, especially when they’re well written.


                • Actually in 2004 I wrote a blog post arguing that word of mouth works with music but doesn’t work with books. You can find it here:
                  A mathematician friend of mine even created a model for word of mouth in Excel and there’s a link to it on the post. If you play with the model you’ll see that you need miraculous ratios for word of mouth to work in books.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • No disrespect, but math is against the sheer amount of books on my shelf. Word of mouth is always the best advertising. It’s why Amazon bought Goodreads and why you’re so keen on reviews. What is a review if not word of mouth? Music has become a highly passive exercise, but indie musicians face the same challenges you do. Streaming services mean few people buy music anymore. Books aren’t on the same scale, but they have the same problems. They require effort that few people are willing to expend. It’s two different models, but the enthusiasm remains that sells them in either case. To reduce it to math and logic means someone missed the point of the joy of reading. Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling all started at the bottom. They all paid their dues pre- internet, and the math was against them. Word of mouth works. You can believe in yourself and your book and connect with the grass roots to grow the audience, or you can do what Rowling did and submit it 118 times to a pro publisher that will do the job for you. Writing isn’t a career designed to make one rich. That comes with a lot of decades of passion, not cold numbers.

                    Liked by 1 person

                  • Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the model of the indie musicians could work. Have you considered appearances at small book fairs, local book or comic shops, and smaller sci-fi conventions? This is the kind of unconventional marketing that I’ve personally seen work over time. It’ll come down to charisma and enthusiasm, but then, that’s the nature of sales. Not to put a fine point on it, but a book in the right hands at at conventions 6 months ahead of time is how Star Wars sold tickets when it first opened on a limited number of screens when the studio had no expectations. Locally, we see authors come to our comic shop every month. They don’t always sell their books, but I typically buy if I like the pitch and the conversation. Do that enough at a lot of local venues, it adds up over time. Obviously the thing working against indie publishing is the amount of money you have to put in. This is why pro publishers are selective, because they spend money too. So working on the local model, what does the science fiction and fantasy scene look like in your area? Where does your target audience hang out? Minimize the money by maximizing your time spent in engaging the audience. Just some suggestions. Feel free to write me off if it doesn’t appeal to you.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • The approach is what you make of it, but yes, it is time consuming. Any marketing is time consuming. It also helps to cement “brand loyalty.” Without a staff, this is what indie marketing looks like for absolutely anything. It takes several strategies to get things moving on multiple fronts. It just comes down to how badly you want to work at it. Most indie authors I know hate marketing. I don’t blame them. But I wish them — and you — luck all the same.


  2. In my case it’s the other way around: I hate writing but I enjoy marketing the books. This sentence from Robert Hass summarises brilliantly how I feel about writing books “It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.”

    Liked by 1 person

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