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I was reading Novel about an AI (robot) becoming more human than the owner and the mention of probes that subdivided made me remember a paperback I read, I think on the early 2000s, maybe as a paperback. The protagonist, who was a human Captain on a starship, I think a male, was talking to an opponent over a communications screen. Said opponent used to be human, but was either infected or installed with nanotechnology which, among other things, caused his fingers to bifurcate, and then split again and again down to atomic levels. During the call, said opponent started peeling the skin of his own face, I think unconsciously.

The only other thing is that I have a very Star Trek vibe in my head about the book. It might have even been one of the paperbacks.

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I think the novel you are looking for is Federation, by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, published in 1994.

The villain in the novel is Adrik Thorsen, a military colonel who was a foe of warp drive inventor Zefram Cochrane in the 21st century. Later on, it is revealed that Thorsen used various alien technological means to extend his lifespan, and both Captain Kirk (23rd century) and Captain Picard (24th century) end up having to fight against him.

The description you are thinking of appears during the portion of the story set in the 23rd century:

"Colonel Thorsen appears to have made use of Grigari technology," Spock commented.

Kirk corrected him. "Outlawed Grigari technology."

"What have you become?" Cochrane said in disgust.

"What you have made me," Thorsen answered. His arms moved like the questing feelers of some enormous insect, twisting up to hold two clenched fists by his still human face as if to display them for their owner's admiration. "I have become optimal."

Thorsen probed at his face with the mechanical pincers of his duranium hands. Kirk recognized their distinctive design just as Spock had. Each metal pincer ended with three smaller grippers inset at the tip, and each of those in three smaller ones, and so on, into the nanometer realm, giving each hand the capability to take apart living tissue on a cell-by-cell level.

By the 24th century, Thorsen's body has been completely replaced, and he is essentially software.

  • 1
    Nice find. I knew it was ST, since it gave me the same vibe as Fuzzy. – JohnP Apr 4 '18 at 19:35
  • Thank you. Good to know my hunch was right. – FuzzyBoots Apr 4 '18 at 19:38

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