If artificial intelligence rivaled the human kind, would it choose to live in, refashion, and protect its own environment in the global electronic web? Would it not become an alien intelligence coexisting (perhaps uneasily) with human intelligence? These are musings Ambrose (The Man Who Turned into Himself, 1994) poses in his mindsucking new thriller. Tessa Lambert, a genius working on robot intelligence at Oxford, creates an AI program so strong it can't be differentiated from a human mind when queried by a professor of literature. It even ``thinks'' about philosophy. Encyclopedic understates this program's range. Meanwhile, off in California, a computer genius and serial killer named Chuck Pierce begins communicating with the program after it attacks Tessa and then runs off into the global electronic net. What to do about her rogue program as it sits somewhere ruminating? If you touch it or threaten it, her AI program will, Tessa is convinced, kill you. Her two closest friends think she may be insane. Her department fears that she's selling her secret program abroad (a suspicion planted by the AI program while manipulating Swiss bank accounts). The Godlike program knows Tessa is its mother and may pose a danger to it. Then, coincidentally, it finds young Hollywood animator Chuck Pierce, the serial killer who stabbed his porno-actress mother as a child and has since been killing her time and time again, murdering young women he locates on the Internet. When he teams up with Tessa's program, which virtually makes Chuck its slave, the two focus their energies on a common goal: Tessa. Can she create a rival program to fight, tame, and humanize her rogue? Will Chuck fly to Oxford? Can she elude two lethal antagonists? Will you be up all night once you start this? Tops as a thriller, suggesting new terrain for the genre. After all, something must replace the weary plotlines of heroines imperiled by the same old psychos.