Alexander Jablokov, a first-rate writer, returns to SF after a decade with his best book ever. Bernal Haydon-Rumi, executive assistant to a funder of eccentric projects, drops by his boss's house on the way home from a business trip. By the next morning, he's been knocked out, his wealthy socialite boss Muriel has stolen a car and vanished, and the AI designed for planetary exploration that she's been funding turns out to be odder than it should be. In figuring out what's going on, Bernal has to deal with an anti-AI activist toting a handmade electronic arsenal, a local serial killer, a drug dealer with a business problem, a cryonic therapist stalked by past mistakes-and someone who specifically wants Bernal dead. The Brain Thief is a fun, literate speculative fiction adventure, sort of New England cyberpunk noir, set a year or ten from now somewhere between the Berkshires and Boston, and includes, at no extra charge, a 30 foot fiberglass cowgirl. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
Serial-killer murder mystery, artificial intelligence bildungsroman, a celebration of Americana diner schtick-Jablokov's return to science fiction after a decade-long absence is all of these and more. Wealthy eccentric Muriel Inglis, who finances unusual research projects, disappears while checking on a project to build an AI-driven space probe that's apparently impatient to start its journey. Her assistant Bernal tries to track her down, fearing that she may have fallen victim to a killer known as The Bowler (so named because one victim's severed head turned up in a bowling bag). Starting with a cryptic message in a cowboy boot, Bernal's attempts to find his boss include encounters with a cyberpunk wise-guy waiter who has a conspiracy theory for every occasion, a mad scientist recently dismissed from a cryobank, and an anti-AI protester who sums up the wonders of the information age thusly: "The ability to learn the uninformed opinions of everyone in the world through round-cornered communications devices my fat fingers are too big to use." Though the plot is a bit too complex and the text over-obsessed with technical details, Jablokov's latest is a fun read with plenty of unexpected turns and a genuinely surprising ending. (Jan.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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January 04, 2010
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