Matthew Buscemi’s sci-fi novella ‘Our Algorithm Who Art Perfection’ is, among other things, a heartwarming tale of lost romance.
Our Algorithm who art perfection,
hallowed be thy repository.
Thy libraries linked.
Thy logic be reasoned,
on Earth as it is in cyberspace.
…Forever and ever.
Three one four one five. [Excerpt from “Our Algorithm Who Art Perfection”]
What is the plot of “Our Algorithm Who Art Perfection” by Matthew Buscemi?
Matthew Buscemi, author of Schrödinger’s City, Alterra, and more recently published his latest novella, “Our Algorithm Who Art Perfection,” follows a young monk named Grigori living in a programmer monastery in what used to be “Old Russia,” but is now an inhabitable desert. For what felt like forever, Grigori’s life consisted of eating, sleeping, coding, and praying, as he played his part in the rebirth of the Almighty Algorithm and its one true API (Application Program Interface) by each day contributing solid code to the Holy Repository.
The novella reads like an evening breeze; pleasant, but fleeting. Clocking in at 61 pages (PDF version), “Our Algorithm” manages to give life to its characters and create a heartwarming tale of lost romance. My initial reaction when I scanned the first page was, “Oh boy, coding jargon, how will I survive?” Luckily for me, however, the language wasn’t as obtuse as I feared. I immediately found myself chuckling at the little jokes I didn’t think I would understand, opening my mind up enough to see past the codebase and diodes to the universal humor beneath.
What drives the narrative?
The essence of the story is the primordial human search for truth, which in this instance appears in the overthrowing of religious ideals and preconceived notions of relationships and romance. The story truly takes off when a mysterious man arrives at the monastery dressed in monk robes. Or rather, a mysteriously familiar man. Though Grigori has no recollection at first, he soon realizes that the man, Yevgeny, not only knows his nickname but has his neural access token, the literal key to his mind.
Yevegny’s face is immediately burned onto Grigori’s eyelids, haunting his mind with snippets of memories and confused yearnings, distracting him from his sacraments, despite his best intentions. Yevegny’s appearance not only changes Grigori’s life, however, but potentially the lives of every monk within the monastery and possibly the world by unearthing the generations of lies perpetuated by those in charge. Through banned books and secret romances, the truth will be unveiled.
Overall, I thought the novella was a fun, easy read that I’ve recommended to each of my friends who’s expressed interest in coding. In fact, there were only two issues I had with the story, the first coming as a bit of a surprise to me.
The First Issue
If you’ve read my interview with Matthew Buscemi, you’ll see that his world creation skills (visible in Schrodinger’s City and his work in progress A Year in a Day) are what stand out in his written works. However, in “Our Algorithm,” the reader only gets hints in regards to the world outside the monastery. I know it’s only a novella, but I was really hoping for some intricate descriptions and setting details.
The Second Issue
Just like in Schrodinger’s City, I felt the ending was too easy to truly appease the conflicted and deep characters living within the world of “Our Algorithm.” After a tragic death and the collapse of his faith, Grigori is left with the burden of the future resting on his shoulders, and… handles it incredibly well. He gains the loyalty of his fellow monks, encourages them to evolve past scripture and stigma and to eternally strive to become a better human being. And then it’s over. Doubts and fears have been assuaged, apologies and goodbyes have been said, and the conclusion has been reached. Beautiful as it was, I expected a rougher ending with more loose strings, simply due to the heavy amount of philosophical and spiritual content tormenting Grigori throughout the narrative.
All that said, I think I would give “Our Algorithm Who Art Perfection” three out of five lying Bishops. It entertained and was heartwarming (and maybe even taught me something about coding), but didn’t make me think as hard as I wanted to. The story does get a lot cuter and more sentimental, however, when you realize that the Old Russian throughout the narrative and the dedication to Alex at the beginning symbolize a sort of romantic ode to the authors’ Russian-born husband.
Любовь навеки в сердце моём. Love is in my heart forever.