It is the twenty-third century. Herb, a young entrepreneur, returns to the isolated planet on which he has illegally been trying to build a city–and finds it destroyed by a swarming nightmare of self-replicating machinery. Worse, the all-seeing Environment Agency has been watching him the entire time. His punishment? A nearly hopeless battle in the farthest reaches of the universe against enemy machines twice as fast, and twice as deadly, as his own–in the company of a disarmingly confident AI who may not be exactly what he claims…
Little does Herb know that this war of machines was set in motion nearly two hundred years ago–by mankind itself. For it was then that a not-quite-chance encounter brought a confused young girl and a nearly omnipotent AI together in one fateful moment that may have changed the course of humanity forever.
After seeding a desolate world with the latest in twenty-third-century terraforming technology, entrepreneur Herb Kirkham returns to find his self-replicating machinery running riot over the planet, and an agent from the all-seeing Environmental Agency waiting to dole out punishment. Fortunately, Herb’s skills are attractive enough to trade ignominious exile for participation in a deadly mission to thwart a swarming brigade of apparently alien spacecraft that threatens to envelop Earth. A trio of interwoven story lines follows Herb’s misadventures in alien space while teamed with an agent who may not be human himself, the efforts of another entrepreneur a hundred years earlier to oversee human development of artificial intelligence (AI), and the fate of a mental patient in 2051 who hears mysterious voices. All three plotlines concern the rise of an AI-based life-form that may or may not have humanity’s best interests at heart. Overflowing with provocative ideas, Ballantyne’s debut displays enviable mastery of both suspenseful storytelling and technological extrapolation. Mark him as a writer of considerable promise. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved