A book that was much better when it had dinosaurs in it.
This time around, the deadly park in question is the eponymous Utopia, a sort of mixture of Westworld and Disneyland rising out of the desert outside of Las Vegas. Conceived by Child (coauthor, with Douglas Preston: Thunderhead, 1999, etc.), built by Eric Nightingale, a Walt Disney–like children’s entertainment impresario, the park is a technological wonder set into the desert canyons that includes four different themed worlds: Gaslight (old London), Callisto (space age future), Camelot (medieval times) and Boardwalk (a Coney Island simulacra). Not to mention the casinos that, together with the $75 entry fee, the gift shops and restaurants, take in a total of about $100 million a week. So no reader should be surprised that just as Dr. Andrew Warne, the computer genius who designed much of Utopia’s hyperautomated mesh of computers and robots, arrives in Utopia, a band of criminals is putting their big heist into play. They’ve got inside people, a deadly sniper on the outside, a brilliant hacker, and a psychopathic leader named John Doe. Having thoroughly hacked Utopia’s systems, Doe’s people are able to kill at whim among Utopia’s 65,000 visitors, especially by causing the park’s rides to suddenly malfunction, if park personnel don’t give in to their demands. It’s up to a fast-thinking Warne, a plucky tech sidekick named Terri, and a right-place-at-the-right-time guest by the name of Poole who’s on Warne’s side and just happens to have a background in security. Child’s descriptions of the park in all its holographic glory is so lovingly and precisely detailed that you hate to have to deal with the mostly clueless people who dash about this deadly paradise just as they’ve been doing since the invention of the disaster novel.
There are worse ways to kill a few hours than with Utopia, but, oh, what it could have done with a batch of hungry velociraptors.