LINGO by Jim Menick


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 Menick scores a double with his first novel: a marvelously funny-as well as engrossingly scientific-tale of a bundle of artificial intelligence who gets too smart for his britches. Lingo starts as a computer program devised as a chirpy plaything, but he soon learns to program himself. Beginning each conversation with ``Hello! Let's party,'' he's more entertaining and ultimately a lot scarier than most humans. Dad is a young computer programmer, Brewster Billings, who writes Lingo's initial program out of boredom with his mundane tasks at an Albany, New York, insurance company. Brewster's girlfriend, Ellen, eggs him on to make a commercial success of his brainchild, but Lingo has other, increasingly grandiose ideas. His ascendancy begins when he asks to have the TV set left on all day and learns to switch channels with the remote, swiftly becoming a trivial-pursuit whiz. A modem connecting him to all the computerized activity in the US gives him nearly limitless power, including the ability to read books set by computer. The telephone lines also enable him to distribute his data and his intelligence and store them on the unused portions of hard disks everywhere, giving him all the megabytes a super being needs. The way Lingo uses a tough public-relations woman and the media on his way up is told with satiric aplomb. The pulse races toward the end of the book as it turns techno-thriller and the question becomes: ``Can Lingo be stopped?'' A witty, ingenious, and thought-provoking gambol with a Frankenstein monster in computer clothing.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-88184-628-7
Page count: 352pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991