Synopsis: The first person narrator, as well as a catholic bishop, a rabbi, and a couple others have met since three months in a bar at Rome’s St Peter’s plance in order to watch the outcome of a conclave, the voting for a new pope. They are looking forward to have the robotic cardinal as the new leader of the Catholic Church, some discuss against it. A bunch of robotic priests are eagerly praying for it.
Review: This satiric work was brief and enjoyable. It‘s got an archaic touch as a SF work – with „Lira“ as the Italian money instead of Euro, a still integrate state of „Yugoslavia“ instead of several states, and the weak role of females in the story. How could Silverberg have predicted the unheard of case of a retired pope, or a pope from South America? But the story was written after the Second Vatican Council which implemented huge reforms to the church. And the author could have extrapolated far braver than just introducing an AI as a pope.
The church’s role is always interesting to note in SF works, as it has a huge impact even in our days. Typically, it’s depicted as opposing uploading minds into the cloud (because what about the soul?) in more contemporary works This story takes a charming, inclusive, and positive approach to Catholicism which I find quite interesting.
On the negative side, there is nearly no discussion of the implications of an AI pope. It only presents the satirical idea as such, lets you have a good laugh, and leave you on your own.
Back in the 1970s it might have more punch, but nowadays it feels weaker. It is short enough to be enjoyable and for this, I can recommend it.
Meta: isfdb It won the Nebula Award