When William Wenton, the greatest codebreaker of all time, has what seems to be a seizure on live TV, the members of the Institute for Post-Human Research take him into protective custody in this sequel to William Wenton and the Impossible Puzzle (2017).
But although the Institute saved William in the previous book, it now seems more like a prison than a school for promising codebreakers. Not only is William’s old room now lined with steel with bars on the window, but he must be accompanied by a porter-bot or risk being blasted by the guard-bot’s passivator. But the biggest change is in his friend Iscia. Not only is she a field assistant partnered with his nemesis, Freddy, but she is keeping secrets from him. But with a violent woman trying to kidnap him, a mysterious man encased in a steel slab hidden in the basement, and unexplained visions of a cave in the Himalayas, William is determined to find the answers. While the bots are creative and William’s codebreaking ability is intriguing, the plot is forced and unoriginal. Villains with bad dental hygiene and spouting clichéd threats are formulaic at best. Circular and repetitive dialogue continues for pages with little value. And Freddy, the school bully, seems to exist simply to torment William and to goad him into dangerous situations. Non-bot characters seem all to be white.
Unoriginal, meandering, and lacking energy. (Science fiction. 8-12)