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January 15
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Rocky Horror Picture Show

Previous Updates

by Michael McCloskey
2012, 2010; QPB, 335pp
Publication Date: October 2, 2013
Insidious is the first volume of a trilogy, followed by Industrious and Ingenious. The author has also written 12 other books, most of them part of the Trilisk series. His characterizations are spare but have an almost zen-like clarity to them, and the action is non-stop and well-plotted. When engineers – and McCloskey is a software engineer when he’s not writing – take to SF, the results can be spectacular, and McCloskey is a case in point.

In the not-so-far-off future, numerous agencies, including military units, employ Singularity slaves: robots with artificial intelligence and self-awareness that are allowed a brief existence to accomplish a mission, be it espionage or infiltration or making things go Boom!, and then terminated before they can follow their logic branches to conclusions like, “Why am I taking orders from these clowns?”

Something is happening in the reaches of explored space that is attracting all sorts of attention from the companies that make really, really big money from space development. The United Nations Space Force sends in a team to investigate, led by strategist Bren Marcken; because any radically new development is likely to go unreported if it provides an edge to the company that discovers it. Bren is very good at interacting with and orchestrating the actions of robots, and he’ll need to be, to cope with what he finds.

Chris Adrastus, an executive for one of the powerful conglomerates, Vineaux Genomix, is the guy who knows what Bren is supposed to find out, and as the name of the company implies, it involves cybernetics. But there’s a helluva lot more than nanotech and cybernetic applications going on.

Aldriena Niachi, the central protagonist of the series, the one actually pictured on the covers, is an agent – okay, a spy – for the Brazil-based software design company Black Core, deployed by sleazy executive officer Gustavo Machado to insinuate herself into the heart of the action and spin her experience into wealth for her employer. She has all sorts of enhancements and special training that give her the wherewithal to play on some very rough game fields, as well as an independent streak that just might eventually spell trouble for Machado. But for now, her loyalty is not in question, because Black Core holds the business end of too many strings.

So what happens as humans surf the waves of inventions that outpace their inventors? Ironically, a lot of the action turns on knowledge, not just of cutting edge technology, but on classical history, human nature, and how sentient beings made of metal translate those intangibles. Strongly recommended. – Chris R. Paige

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