348p. Pyr. $15
Anjuli O'Connell has a perfect memory, but no confidence in herself -- knowing, afterall, is not understanding. Roy Croft is undoubtedly brilliant and knows everything -- "how the pieces fit together, and how they don't." They both work for OptiNet, a vast multinational that owns the worldwide communications network and the artificial intelligence, 901. Eccentric Roy, despite his involvement with extremist political groups fighting for AI liberation, is too valuable a programmer not to employ; Anjuli is a top expert in AI psychology. Roy turns up dead and OptiNet is quick to call it suicide. Just before he died, Roy filed against OptiNet with the Court of Human Rights in an effort to prove that 901 is a being in its own right. This is puzzling in itself as he was aware a move like that would doubtless lead to 901's "death" rather than its liberation. He also left a series of cryptic messages for Anjuli that may be luring her into an insanely dangerous game for his own warped purposes or leading her to an important truth. The storyline runs through mystery/thriller territory as Anjuli seeks answers and, finally, a mysterious Source must be found and recovering it requires a solo mission into a super-fortified pseudo-abbey in experimental biomech armor. But that is far from all. Robson's debut novel may be imperfect, but it's astonishingly full of imaginative imagery and stylish writing. First published in the U.K. in 1999 it is belatedly arriving in the U.S. only after two subsequent and even more-accomplished novels. Provocative and unique, Robson is stellar talent of the first magnitude. (CFQ Vol. 37, Issue #8)
Note: Robson has since published Mappa Mundi, Natural History (US publication: Bantam Dell, January 2005) and Living Next Door to the God of Love. The most recent novel will be out this spring in the US from Bantam.