At chapter 51, everything fell apart. Not with an explosion, but with a whisper.
Whispers, murmurs, no one spoke in a normal voice anymore. Men in a physical fight would murmur to each other. A military commander snapping out "Report!" did it in a whisper, and the soldier replied in a murmur. For no reason, murmur and whisper outnumbered 'said' two or three to one.
Conversations were constantly going like this, just a normal conversation, no reason for it to be kept quiet:
“Is that the way it was designed to work?” Young asked it quietly.
“No. Merging outside the interface is what you are supposed to prevent.”
“I guess I’m doing a pretty shitty job,” he said quietly.
“No,” it murmured. “The compulsion to merge is stronger than it should be. Much stronger.”
“Why is that, do you think?” Young whispered.
“Many reasons,” Jackson murmured.
“Like what?” Young asked, careful to keep his voice neutral, unable to believe the level of cooperation he was getting.
“He is partially human, he is physically and cognitively damaged, and he—does not like who he is.” It looked away from Young. “He doesn’t just feel the need to combine with me,” it whispered. “He wants to.”
“Yeah,” Young said, shutting his eyes. “I think you’re right about that.”
“Furthermore,” the AI said, its voice almost inaudible. “I lack a template. I was not designed to operate this way.”
"Words barely audible", "Voice making no sound", "Words too soft to hear". People having a conversation on opposite sides of the room murmured nonstop and no one had a problem hearing it.
I just don't get it. The writing is otherwise good. In 2.7 books' worth of writing, there were a total of THREE typos (two spellcheck wouldn't have caught) and one punctuation issue. That's damned good! Clearly this person had one or more beta reader/editor, why did no one speak up about this murmuring thing?
Chapters 1-50: fine. Then 51 all the murmuring started. I just don't get it.
I made it to chapter 66, though in truth I would have given up long ago if I hadn't wanted to finish and get credit for the review in this year's count. It's 71 chapters long, so you'd think I could finish, but I find that I'm not even reading anymore, my eyes just jump from murmur to murmur to whisper.
Edit: Hm. Searching random chapters, it looks like this was an issue earlier on in the story as well. Maybe 50 was just where I first started noticing it or maybe it got much worse then.