Alpha Black by Robert Sharp

Alpha Black

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In this debut techno-thriller, the National Security Agency tries whatever means necessary to take control of advanced technology from a company it perceives as a threat.

The NSA, always looking to hire the nation’s pre-eminent minds, has noticed a disturbing trend over the last couple of years. Probable recruits seem to be disappearing, the NSA assuming they’ve been covertly working for someone else. Sure enough, agents manage to track one scientist’s phone call, putting him squarely in the vicinity of Traegart Industries in Seattle. Attempting to peek behind Traegart’s firewall gets the NSA a return hack from the company so quick and efficient that Dr. Ari Bannergee surmises it has a quantum computer. After Schar Bonderain proves an exceptional job applicant, scheming NSA Assistant Director Kalman Hajeet calls her into his office. He threatens her family and uses a mind-control drug to coerce her into joining Traegart and gathering intelligence for the agency—and then proceeds to rape her. Dalton Traegart, meanwhile, searches for a fellow Cal Tech student he knew by the nickname of Roshi. He believes Roshi’s capable of tapping into the full human potential, perhaps delving into the unused 90 percent part of the brain, a prospect which may entail sending Roshi into orbit. Both Dalton and Schar, however, will soon realize that Hajeet is not their only enemy. The author ignites an intriguing espionage plot with Schar as a “psychoactive agent” having no choice but to do Hajeet’s bidding. Hajeet’s villainy, too, is without question; his rape of Schar is both malicious and meticulous. But as Dalton and Schar grow closer via their superior intellects, the story’s looming danger dissipates. This is due primarily to Dalton, whose vast wealth and resources make him a bit too formidable. Sharp’s writing is confident and perceptive. Later chapters give way to lengthy discussions that are purely theoretical but boast a nice sci-fi touch. Roshi, for example, may have acquired so much knowledge that he’s predicting future events. The ending leaves a fair amount unresolved, but there are plenty of avenues for Sharp to explore in the proposed sequel.

A great deal more talking than action but an undeniably smart, tech-laden story.

Publisher: Dog Ear
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2016


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