Theme park tale is less than a roller coasterA somewhat futuristic amusement park in the Nevada desert is the setting for this airplane time-killer by Lincoln Child. The plot revolves around a consultant who designed an artificial-intelligence system for the park’s robots and is called back for another consulting project.
He thinks it’s to update his systems, but finds that dangerous and seemingly random glitches in the software have resulted in accidents and injuries.
His job, he is told, is to pull the plug on the system, but he discovers a plot afoot by a gang of bad guys led by “John Doe” to sabotage the park and extort either the control software that runs the machines or the cash from a lucrative casino at the park.
There is a dollop of holographics and high-tech gimmicks that hint at a sort of science-fiction theme, but the book is not science fiction. The blood and gore of an action thriller are there, but, thankfully, in rather modest doses, given the standards of the genre.
The protagonist, Andrew Warne, is the former lover of Sarah Boatman, the park’s operations manager. His daughter accompanies him to the park intent on preventing that spark from being rekindled. To no reader’s surprise, there is also a new love interest, a Filipina-American computer engineer at the park.
This is not a book in which one wants to invest a lot of close reading, and the gee-whiz robotics and other effects at the park almost seem to overwhelm the characters that Child describes.
John Doe and his henchmen are unmitigated bad guys; Warne is a passionate believer in his technology (who, at one dangerous point in the chase, elects to leave his daughter in the hands of the computer engineer, whom he has just met).
There is also some confusion about just what the bad guys are after; is it the compact disc containing the computer software, the take from the casino, both or neither? It seems to make no difference to the chase.
And finally, Child has less than a deft touch in developing the romantic subplot. His characters seem to move like the robots they control, and Warne’s new love seems to have been made a Filipina only so Child can throw in a few Tagalog exclamations and cultural touches, several of which he gets wrong.
Mildly entertaining and a cut above a lot of the action genre, I guess, but “Utopia” this is not.
by John Hoog