There's a book in which the characters, themselves from a spacefaring culture, find a repository of highly advanced alien technology. One of the items they examine is a panel on a wall. As I recall it looks silvery and has ripples running over its surface. The main character watches the ripples and briefly becomes entranced until a cohort snaps him/her out of it.

I'm pretty sure this is from Newton's Wake but I can't find the passage, and this makes me wonder if I really have the story right. It very well might have been one of Alastair Reynolds' books. Or maybe Charles Stross.


They were looking for something specific, but I don't remember what. Also, when the friend interrupted the trance, there was some ribbing.

  • Can you remember any more details? Where does the AI come into it? – Joe L. Jul 6 '16 at 22:23
  • @JoeL. -- The panel is a machine, and it takes high AI to hack a human. I've added info to the question. – MackTuesday Jul 6 '16 at 23:13

Finally figured it out!

It is indeed Newton's Wake. I didn't have the details exactly right but I was close enough:

As she followed him along the aisle Carlyle in fact felt reassured by the precision of his navigation. This feeling didn't last. After about fifty metres Johnstone halted and turned aside to marvel at an inlaid screen at about eye level, a rectangle about one and a half metres by two and a half. It was a dull pewter colour and held a watery pattern that wouldn't quite resolve into a moving monochrome picture. She wanted to stare at it, to make it stabilise, but every time its evanescent shapes eluded her --

She jerked her head sideways, breaking the spell. Before she could stop him, Johnstone had extended a lead from his helmet and was jacking it into a socket in the screen's bottom right corner....

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