Second solo work by Child, who writes mighty thrillers with Douglas Preston (Still Life with Crows, 2003, etc.).
The genius-touched Child writes paragraphs of polymathic detail of the kind seen most often in the novels of Richard Powers. As in his first solo flight, Utopia (2002), he again creates a gifted person who loves his toys. In Utopia, the entertainment genius Eric Nightingale created a Disneyesque theme park featuring four worlds: Gaslight, Camelot, Callisto (space age stuff), and Boardwalk. This time around, the lonely computer brain Richard Silver creates Liza (as in Shaw’s Pygmalion), a fabulous artificial intelligence construct that can teach itself to think with ever increasing speed, depth, and sensitivity. Then Silver decides to devote Liza to resolving problems of human happiness, particularly in mating choices, and he erects, in Manhattan, the amazing building named Eden, Inc., where for $25,000 a person can be scanned genetically, psychologically, and otherwise for the perfect mate. In the four years of Eden’s huge success, no ill match has asked for its money back. All clients, like Stepford wives, remain perfectly mated—some more perfectly than others. These superperfect matings, of which Eden has produced six, are called supercouples. But now something terrible has been happening to them: two of the six pairs have committed suicide. Eden, Inc., calls in Dr. Christopher Lash (author of Congruency), a psychologist specializing in marital relationships who’s also a burned-out and retired forensic psychologist with the FBI Behavioral Science team working out of Quantico. Lash has to dig into the deep guts of Liza to find a reason for the suicides—but all he comes to are cloudless dead ends with supremely happy couples smiling at him. Finally, Lash himself must go through Eden’s screening process to understand how it works, and, although he’s turned down as a client, Liza nonetheless finds his perfect mate. And the, well, murderer? Big surprise.
Terrific writing—though the climax, overly spun out, sticks to thriller format.