This was a novel set in the far-future. Definitely written in the last 20 years. I remember that the author had an exceptional understanding of philosophy and literature and a really strong vocabulary.

  • The story mostly occurred in virtual reality. Francis Bacon and Joan of Arc are virtual personalities that are real enough to be illegal to instantiate.

  • There were physical non-human characters which included AI maintenance robots (not androids) which adopted human philosophy and literature studies as hobbies. One's focus was Proust

  • Although set in the future, human occupation was limited to sol's system.

  • Voltaire and Joan of Arc were the main characters.

  • The novel must have been written during our period when prominent futurists were saying that the internet was going to be traversed by software agents, since that meme (classic sense) was the driver of much of the action.

  • The plot was unmemorable in that the illegally created personalities were instantiated to combat an existential threat in the form of a network agent to the solar system-wide information network, which they ultimately overcame in a brilliant and unexpected way, of course.

  • This sounds a lot like a Dan Simmons book. The Proust thing especially sounds like Illium / Olympos. Are you sure it was Francis Bacon and Joan of Arc?
    – Paul
    Oct 27, 2019 at 3:23
  • 6
    In Foundation's Fear by Gregory Benford there are AI simulations of Joan of Arc and Voltaire, though otherwise the plot doesn't match your description. Oct 27, 2019 at 6:16
  • John Rennie nailed it. thank you.
    – jgk
    Oct 28, 2019 at 3:16
  • @JohnRennie Do you know if the virtual Voltaire and Joan featured in either of the two sequels? (Foundation and Chaos / Foundation's Triumph)
    – AJM
    Oct 28, 2019 at 13:11
  • @AJM-Reinstate-Monica yes, they feature in all three books of the trilogy. Oct 28, 2019 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


As discussed in the comments the book is Foundations Fear by Gregory Benford. This is the first book in a trilogy set in Asimov's Foundation universe.

Foundation's Fear

However the AIs are Joan of Arc and Voltaire, not Francis Bacon, and the book is set on Trantor not Earth. Time is not kind to our memories!

Besides the psychohistorians, much of the novel's action revolves around advanced sentient simulations (sims) of Joan of Arc and Voltaire. The sims have been recreated by Artifice Associates, a research company located in Trantor’s Dahl Sector. Artifice Associates programmers Marq and Sybil plan to use the Joan/ Voltaire sims for two money-making projects. First, Hari Seldon’s psychohistory project. Second, Trantor’s Junin-Sector “Preservers vs Skeptics Society” debate whether mechanical beings endowed with artificial intelligence should be built. And if so, whether they should receive full citizenship. The Preservers’ champion will be Joan, the Skeptics’ champion Voltaire.

  • "time is not kind to our memories," true, well said
    – jgk
    Oct 28, 2019 at 22:12
  • 2
    @jgk if this is the correct book please will you click the tick symbol to the left of my answer. That marks the answer as accepted. Oct 29, 2019 at 5:23

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