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The Know Circuit by Gary A. Ballard

The Know Circuit - Gary Ballard

Set in 2028, Los Angeles, Artemis Bridge is a wheeler and dealer. He makes his money on trading information and connections. Indeed, he believes in living life with as little work-related exertion as possible. Then an explosion over Boulder, Colorado is reported and Artemis finds himself caught up in a road trip.

Aristotle, who provides protection and some common sense to Artemis, has a grandmother in Boulder. So he is going with or without Artemis. But Artemis also needs some answers. When the event happened, some people (Artemis among them) collapsed into some kind of brief seizure. Only people with certain cyber implants were affected this way. Artemis calls in the assistance of another shady guy and together, the three of them take a trip to Boulder.

They set up with some back to nature survivalists just outside of Boulder. Artemis is awed by what they see – a giant, black, shiny dome has appeared over part of the city, centered over the university. Unfortunately for Aristotle, he fears his granma is trapped within that dome. Artemis’s implant seems to be tugging him towards the dome. Eventually, they head towards it only to meet with resistance from the corporatized Colorado police and then a fire-breathing dragon named Carl.

The cutting edge tech is all throughout this book and what Artemis finds within the dome is both spooky and fascinating. I never feel like the book has slipped back to 2015 because we have all this well integrated tech. In Book 1 (Under the Amoral Bridge), we had more cyberpunkian stuff with the full-body kresh immersion. That’s still mentioned here when Artemis calls on his girlfriend Angela to assist in creating fake credentials, etc. Still, we have the implants and then all the cool stuff going on within the dome.

There’s only a handful of female characters, though they are more than eye candy. Angela is this guru within the kresh and helps Artemis more than once. Anna Angst needs a favor from Artemis to get her news story. There’s a lady (Lydia) within the dome that also is a computer geek. Then there is Aristotle’s granma. Still, none of them are particularly plot integral.

I didn’t find this book as dark as Book 1. Instead, it had more of an adventure quality to it, exploring the cutting edge. I enjoyed both books even though they differed in this manner. I will say that this book spends a fair amount of time telling us how amoral Artemis is, but never actually showing that. His actions are to the contrary. Plus, we never hear of or see him doing truly immoral things like pimping children or enslaving the elderly. So his reputation on this front is mostly hype and after a while I did tire of being told how amoral he was, because that just wasn’t so. He’s self-centered and definitely looking out for himself, but he’s also doing more than just accidental or self-serving good along the way.

Through out the book, there is an ongoing strain of discussion about various ways to govern large bodies of people. Aristotle likes to get into the philosophy behind various historical leaderships. Also, there’s plenty about how state and national governments in 2028 are more and more corporatized, giving large companies control over government agencies and laws. I found all of this pretty interesting and they added something to the story instead of distracting from it.

My favorite part of the tale was what happened within that dome. Now it would be a big spoiler to chat about it in specifics, so I won’t do that. What Artemis finds disturbs him. There’s some cutting edge science that has inadvertently gone awry and there might not be a way to fix it. It was geeky and a little sad too since things and people were lost permanently. Since not everyone makes it out alive for one big hugfest, the story had weight, and I enjoyed that quite a bit. It showed that the story was taking itself seriously and there was, indeed, consequences.

I received a copy at no cost from the narrator (via the Goodreads group Audiobooks ) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Joe Hempel did another fine job with this sequel. His voices were all distinct and easy to recognize. There were a few accents required, which he did fine with. I especially liked his voice for the dragon!