William Ell is a mathematics professor living a quiet life—until his father, a successful IT entrepreneur, is murdered. Was his father’s last project his undoing? What exactly was this project that cost him his entire fortune? Ell begins to investigate and soon becomes a target himself. Someone’s trying, by any means necessary, to take away his father's only legacy: a green gemstone that contains an unknown technology. Only a mysterious woman named Allison seems to know more about it.
But the path she leads him down challenges Ell's belief in reality—or what he thought was reality, until now …
Harwin combines a tense chase—Ell doesn’t know who to trust—with convincingly detailed speculative science as Ell discovers his father’s legacy. These events have drawn the attention of a mysterious, apparently malevolent intelligence, and soon Ell and Feng are on the run, first to CyberSim’s secret Arizona compound, desperate not just to survive but to crack the departed Ell’s secrets—and possibly save humanity’s future. Despite the occasional lecture or unexpected flash-forward, the pacing is quick and the storytelling accessible, thanks to crisp prose, the satisfying teasing of mysteries, and characters with more life to them than the genre usually demands.
That’s especially true of the jittery Trina, who gives Ell and Feng a tour of the compound and has a terrifying vision of Allison, from the Department of Defense, who’s determined to get the stone—and whose mind seems capable of more than the human norm. The adventure circles the globe, the stakes continually escalating, with steady jolts of surprise keeping the pages turning. The length edges toward the epic, with many international parties to keep track of, but the ending is satisfying, and fans of the genre will find much that’s appealing and unexpected. That’s especially true of Harwin’s setup for a sequel, which promises an even wilder science-fiction conspiracy.
Takeaway: The chase is on in this clever tech thriller of murder, AI, and humanity’s future.
Great for fans of: Tom Chatfield’s The Gomorrah Gambit, Douglas E. Richards’s Infinity Born.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A