A debut novel explores the possibilities that technology offers to terrorists.
Levin plumbs his career in high-tech and his degree in philosophy to ask important “what if” questions. Primary among these is whether people could live forever through computers. This idea leads the protagonist, Sam Sunborn, down a slippery slope. “Can you imagine a world where we can live on beyond our physical lives in a digital world?” Sam asks. “Where we could still interact with our loved ones, read and enjoy all the ‘pleasures of the mind’ just like when we were alive?” Unfortunately, Sam’s research draws the attention of the Barinian terrorist The Leopard, who sends gunmen after Sam’s team, resulting in the physical death and virtual rebirth of his mentor, Frank Einstein (no relation to Albert). The Leopard, a master strategist, is seeking vengeance for his family, killed by U.S. drones: “These were the so-called virtuous Americans, killing indiscriminately based on shaky intelligence.” Sam figures that the best defense is a good offense. So he gathers a band to inhibit The Leopard’s plans, including his own employees, some young hackers from the U.S. Cyber Command, police detective Al Favor, and Rich Little from Homeland Security. They largely block The Leopard’s scheme to take over America’s air-control system. But then the group must devise a way to stop his master stroke: sabotaging nuclear plants across the nation. Levin’s biggest accomplishment is to make readers ponder which scenarios terrorists could actually accomplish. While people may not yet be able to live on digitally, otherwise, as Levin explains in his Author’s Notes, “all the science and technology in this book is currently available and being deployed.” He also provides links for those whose curiosity has been piqued by his novel. Levin’s pacing is admirable. His story never drags, despite some very technical passages, and leads up to a satisfying twist ending. He’s developed highly believable characters, including the terrorists, who many times end up being one-dimensional in this genre’s tales. Best of all, many of them survive so that future series installments are possible. But the author has set the bar high with this promising, well-crafted debut.
A tense, high-powered techno-thriller.