THE KRAKEN PROJECT by Douglas Preston

THE KRAKEN PROJECT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Preston’s (White Fire, 2013, etc.) third Wyman Ford adventure sends the investigator chasing after Dorothy, who happens to be an element of artificial intelligence gone rogue.

NASA plans to send a probe to an ocean on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Since the distance precludes instant communication, the Kraken Project employs artificial intelligence—code named Dorothy—to cope with unforeseen occurrences. Dr. Melissa Shepherd, wild child–turned–NASA computer nerd, codes Dorothy into AI. During testing, the probe (and Dorothy) are immersed in a liquid methane tank. Dorothy autonomously responds to a perceived threat and causes a fatal accident. In the chaos, Dorothy, 2 gigabytes of code, escapes into the Internet and soon begins communicating with Shepherd. Dorothy is angry, vengeful, frightened and, finally, "incomplete. Unfastened. Floating." In the formulaic chase-scenario plot, Dorothy evolves from threat to victim, becoming the target of the Feds, who’d like to weaponize her, and a psychopathic Wall Street market manipulator whose ambition is to control the stock market. From Page 1, it’s never-take-a-breath action, believable enough given Preston’s interpretation of AI’s mimicking and acting on emotions without having emotions—until Dorothy develops a conscience. New readers get no back story on hero Ford, who plays only a small role. Shepherd’s double-smart, double-tough girl genius characterization is solid, and the Wall Street raider is fleshed out into a worthy villain. Preston does his best characterization with his layman’s interpretation of AI by slipping into Dorothy’s head for random chapters. As she moves from the savage ground of virtual-reality gaming to locations as exotic as the U.S. president’s pacemaker, Dorothy grows from chip-logic dualistic choices into humane wisdom, becoming a sympathetic character.

Something like E.T. roaming the Internet to save the world, complete with an empathetic kid on a bicycle.

Pub Date: May 13th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1769-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2014




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Kirkus Interview
Douglas Preston
January 2, 2017

Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God—but then committed suicide without revealing its location. Three quarters of a century later, bestseller Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization. The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story is his account of the expedition. “A story that moves from thrilling to sobering, fascinating to downright scary—trademark Preston, in other words, and another winner,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >

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