It’s a well controlled world with the System in charge of everything from world finances to the weather. Politics is more for entertainment and so the humans can feel like they have a modicum of control than anything else. Skeptical Simon Bank knows this, and like nearly everyone else he knows, he’s OK with that. But then a small tornado hits downtown and it’s too much damage for it to be completely swept under the rug. Plus Simon actually witnessed it and he has the skills and position to figure out what went wrong.
Now the story did hit a slow patch early on. There’s plenty computer geek speak about outdated languages and such. I am pretty sure there were some hidden jokes in there, but they went right over this biologist’s head. I’m glad I stuck with the story because once you get past this slow part, the story picks up. There’s talk about how the human life has been extended hugely and people can have a certain number of biological kids and after that they can special order synth-children. They basically have a pre-programmed end date, but behave and act just like real kids. These bio-tech bits interested me the most.
Simon and a few friends (such as Markerman) suit up and take a dunk in the pool. Mary hangs back outside, ready to assist or pull them out if need be. This is where their special suits allow for a swifter connection with the system, letting them navigate it in an almost Matrix kind of way. Throughout the book, Simon uses this interface a few times and I found the tech to be very interesting. He has to take a certain drug to speed up his nerve response in order to interface with the System via the pool. When someone comes out of the pool, they can let it wear off or take drugs to slow their responses. I do like me some fun and cool tech in my SF stories. And it gets more interesting when Simon comes across an entity within the System. Yep, we’re talking Artificial Intelligence people. Awesome!
Now this new entity at first behaves a little badly and Simon has to think and act quickly to keep his comrades safe. Then the entity kind of clings to Simon. So Simon starts to teach this entity (who we come to know as Apollo) about The Path. Basically, Simon is trying to the teach Apollo some basic rights and wrongs. The Path becomes a subject that is discussed at length at several points throughout the tale. Sometimes the repetition, while realistic for teaching a fledgling entity, slowed the story again.
Now a little oddity is that Apollo has a secret pet name he/it picked out for himself – Peter. Yep, the same name as the author. Whenever an author does this, I get caught up wondering why – Ego? Inside joke? Just for fun? So every time I heard ‘Peter’ in the story I was immediately pulled out the story for a few seconds to contemplate this once again. Basically it was a distraction.
So the tale continues with more action and a deeper worry than the sudden accidental birth of an AI entity. Simon and Apollo have to go into hiding while still trying to figure things out in order to save the world. They have plenty of people after them, most of who want things to remain the status quo. The last quarter of the book was the most entertaining because everything was coming together and there was action. Cramer, and agent of Control, shows up pretty early and is a bit of a wild card. He definitely feels the need to be in control and Simon isn’t sure he can convince Cramer to help him, or at least, to not hinder him. Cramer is also the source of much of the action throughout the tale.
Most of the cast in this story is male. There are a few secondary and tertiary female characters. Mary is the most prominent one and gets to do the most. Even the AI Apollo gets deemed a ‘he’ by Simon. I would have liked a better representation of the ladies.
This book had some pluses and minuses. In the end, I am glad that I stuck with it. The ending is one of those great big concept idea endings. I really enjoyed how we started off with a small localized issue, how it then got bigger, then even bigger, and then the grand finale concept. The author has left the door open for a sequel.
I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author (via the blog tour company iRead Book tours) in exchange for an honest review.
Narration: Jonathan Yen did a pretty good job. The entire tale is told from Simon’s point of view so mostly it is his voice we hear. He had a good, distinct voice for Apollo, sounding a bit clipped and proper. There were a few speaking females and Yen’s female voices were distinct and believable.