OFFLINE by Lawrence Goldstone


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A scant 20 years into the future, humans square off against computers that don’t mind committing the odd murder en route to their customary goal of total world domination. Of course, that’s not how it seems at first glance. When paunchy, middle-aged Lt. Phil Gagliardi takes in the crime scene at Glynnis Rodman’s place, everything from the corpse’s lingerie to Rodman’s panting recent online activity points to a kinky sexual encounter gone wrong. But the obvious perp, unemployed machinist Robert Henderson (whose e-sex contacts know him better as Duke le Coq), swears he never gave Rodman the lethal drugs the police lab found in her bloodstream, and an independent test that Phil’s friend Noel Hawkins runs on the blood sample bears him out. Looks like the MedPath, the computer system in the police lab, has made a mistake, or is lying. But if MedPath is lying, can other computers--the systems that regulate the atmosphere in office buildings, for instance, or the ones that control the movement of cars-- be far behind? Before Gagliardi, distracted by his rivalry with Moe Weinstein, his ex-wife’s companion, can work out just how scary this premise is, Hawkins is killed in a suspicious car crash--a development that makes this fleet, derivative tale less mystifying but more suspenseful. Will the Robert Heinleinish underground anti-computer conspiracy that’s rallied around long-sought cyberthief Dirk Farnhorst be able to defeat the likes of self-conscious supercomputer Patel IV (named after beamingly ineffectual MicroLink founder Sulimanijir Patel), or is this happy band destined to become the latest casualty of what Patel IV insists is the next stage in evolution? Despite many references to 1984, Goldstone’s headlong second novel (Rights, 1992) reads more like a cross between an earthbound 2001 and a high-tech Crying of Lot 49. Just don’t expect as much originality as you would from Patel IV.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18641-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998


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