Riotous science-fiction social commentary, from the author of May Contain Traces of Magic (2009, etc.).
In Novosibirsk, genius scientist turned banker George Stetchkin wonders, during his bouts of sobriety, how somebody has removed, without trace, $50 trillion from various bank vaults around the world. Not far away, industrialist Lucy Pavlov ponders why she has no memory of her childhood despite the fact that she's a computer-programming whiz whose products have conquered the world. Meanwhile, in space far above Novosibirsk, Mark Two, an intelligent planet-busting bomb dispatched by Ostar, a world where dogs rule and humans fetch sticks, speculates why its predecessor, Mark One, failed to explode and eliminate the planet as ordered. The Ostar, you see, are so distracted by human pop music that they're practically unable to think. Just as George figures out where the missing money went, two aliens appear and shoot him. Curious about the snippets of Ostar computer code (1,000 years more advanced than human code) embedded in Lucy's programs, the Mark Two—unfortunately, it’s clueless about humans—whips up an inconspicuous probe, the human-shaped Mark Twain, who’s so weird and geeky he’s immediately accepted as a programmer by George’s bank. Lucy, however, isn't as easily convinced. While eventually linking all this together, Holt’s wicked blasts range far beyond bankers and programmers. What’s missing here—and what his often estimable work has always lacked—is a compelling theme, like Discworld or Hitchhiker's Guide.
Tons of wonderful confetti, but the flashbulbs don't pop.