A slim, uncompelling but informative and mostly entertaining ""novel of the near future,"" which mixes lectures on computer...



A slim, uncompelling but informative and mostly entertaining ""novel of the near future,"" which mixes lectures on computer technology with a standard business-intrigue plot and a few spots of easygoing comedy. Silicon Valley, of course, is that Stanford-centered hi-tech industrial area in California; and Rogers focuses on Solitron, a company made super-successful over the years by its scrappy young founders, president Burr Mathias and research director Alan Steinberg. Now, however, Solitron's in trouble--the Japanese are making its product obsolete--so Mathias, hoping to attract a profitable takeover bid, pressures the reluctant Steinberg into going public with their new, expensive, in-the-works development: ""Ultrachip,"" a super computer-chip which can possibly be used (with help from Stanford's colorful Vincent Tomasso, author of Computer-future) to truly simulate human intelligence for the first time. Steinberg and Tomasso, then, both dubious, start working furiously--not knowing that some of their data has been stolen from the Japanese (by Mathias) or that Mathias is up to all sorts of financial shadiness. And meanwhile Mathias--who thinks that John Updike (Rabbit Redux) is a zoologist--is beginning an affair with Times reporter Maralee, to the mounting fury of his pregnant wife, computer expert Diane. Finally, then, the focus centers, intriguingly, on the ""Turing Test"": a public demonstration of Solitron's new pseudo-human computer, SOCRATES. (Can the audience of reporters tell if the computer or a real person is answering questions from a panel of assorted celebrities?) But complications set it when it seems that SOCRATES may have become too human: is the computer, for its own motives, ""breaking in"" and damaging computers around the country? True, the answer to this comes as no real surprise. But along the way there's lots of up-to-date computer savvy (the dense jargon may put off some readers at first), along with some engaging character touches--especially the offbeat romance between Steinberg and ""Martha the Magnificent,"" an anorexic sort who lives in a motel and devises computer games like ""Mr. Right."" In sum: uneven but agreeably instructive.

Pub Date: June 24, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1982