A sci-fi thriller in which a scientist struggles to protect his supercomputer while people at a Nevada facility are being killed.
Dr. Trevor Lennox is happy to get more funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for his computer lie detector known as MADRID, which stands for Machine-Aided Deception Recognition and Intent Detection. But when he’s assigned a co-lead named Cassie, he believes that DARPA has aspirations to boot him from the Pyramid Lake compound. And this is only the start: Scientists are murdered, his colleagues may be spying on him, and Trevor breaks protocol by using the artificial intelligence of his supercomputer, Frankenstein, to help his 7-year-old daughter, Amy, whose school fears that she may be troubled psychologically. After his ecological thriller (New Year Island, 2013), Draker has based his new novel in sci-fi, but he dabbles in multiple genres, including action and espionage, as even Trevor tiptoes around the facility at night and surreptitiously peruses others’ hard drives. Trevor is an alluring protagonist, both a genius with a doctoral degree and a physically adept fighter, most noticeably displayed when a man at a bar gives him grief for his apparent “geek” status; the man is a bloody mess after Trevor is finished with him. The murders unfold in the style of a whodunit as Trevor acquires a growing distrust of fellow scientists Blake, Kate and Roger, each with his or her own project. His relationships are deliciously complicated: He initiates a romance with Cassie but clearly still loves his ex-wife, Jen, and he verbally debases Roger, whom he considers a friend. Frankenstein progressively becomes more humanlike while retaining his automaton qualities—Trevor gets updates via his customized iPhone, which eventually sound like telephonic conversations, complete with Frankenstein’s whirring server fans’ eerie resemblance to a person breathing. The story ultimately hits recognizable terrain, and a few readers may predict its route, but the author’s voice is fresh, and numerous scenes, like a hilarious parody of the 1931 film Frankenstein, when Trevor sets himself up with Internet access during a storm, are welcomely outlandish.
A familiar sci-fi tale but one that Draker paints in his own profound and original colors.