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Extinction: A Thriller Kindle Edition

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Length: 382 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jim Pearce is a former military officer who has developed the technology to build amazing prostheses for veterans returning from war. His daughter Layla works with a hacker organization that reveals government secrets—and she is instrumental in uncovering dangerous classified information about China. The Chinese will do anything to stop Layla before the information is leaked; they've developed an artificial intelligence network called Supreme Harmony that can spy on any government or corporation. But the real danger begins when Supreme Harmony becomes self-aware. Narrator Todd McLaren reads with a slightly gruff tone that gives Pearce a degree of strength. He also adeptly creates voices with suitable tones and accents for the book's other male characters. McLaren doesn't portray the female characters quite as well, using a breathy, slight falsetto that isn't convincing. Still listeners will find much entertainment value of the audio edition of this suspenseful technological thriller. A Thomas Dunne hardcover. (Feb)

From Booklist

Alpert’s Final Theory (2008) and The Omega Theory (2011), technothrillers based on real science, starred science historian David Swift. His new book introduces a new hero, Jim Pierce, but otherwise it’s more of the same—and that’s good news for fans. Pierce, a former soldier who wears a cutting-edge prosthetic arm he designed himself, is skeptical when he’s approached by a government agent asking questions about Pierce’s estranged daughter, Layla, who’s involved with a website that publishes classified military documents. After a close brush with death, during which it becomes clear that his visitor is actually a foreign agent, Pierce is plunged into a race to find his daughter. But, unknown to him (and to most of humanity, although that could soon change), the artificial intelligence at the core of a powerful antiterrorism program has come alive, and it will do anything to stop Layla from divulging the secrets she possesses. Among the writers jostling for position at the top of the technothriller ladder since the passing of Michael Crichton, Alpert is edging closer and closer to the lead. An exciting and highly imaginative story. --David Pitt

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More About the Author

MARK ALPERT is a contributing editor at Scientific American and an internationally bestselling author of science thrillers. His novels for adults -- "Final Theory," "The Omega Theory," "Extinction," and "The Furies" -- are action-packed page-turners that show the frightening potential of near-future technologies. His first Young Adult novel, "The Six" (to be published in July 2015), is a science thriller about six dying teenagers who give up their failing bodies to become U.S. Army robots.

A lifelong science geek, Mark attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City and then majored in astrophysics at Princeton University. Working with his advisor, the Princeton theorist J. Richard Gott III, Mark wrote his undergraduate thesis on the application of the theory of relativity to Flatland, a model universe with only two spatial dimensions (length and width, but no depth). The resulting paper, "General Relativity in a (2 + 1)-Dimensional Spacetime," was published in the Journal of General Relativity and Gravitation in 1984 and has been cited in more than 100 physics papers since then. (Scientists who are searching for the Theory of Everything are particularly interested in Flatland because the mathematics gets simpler when one spatial dimension is removed from the equations.)

While at Princeton, Mark also studied creative writing with poets Michael Ryan and James Richardson. After graduation he made the fateful (and perhaps foolhardy) decision to pursue poetry rather than physics. So he entered the M.F.A. writing program at Columbia University, where he took courses taught by Stanley Kunitz, Octavio Paz, Derek Walcott, Susan Sontag and Elizabeth Hardwick. Two years later, when he realized that poetry would never pay the bills, Mark became a journalist. He started as a reporter for the Claremont (N.H.) Eagle Times, writing stories about school-board meetings and photographing traffic accidents with his beloved Nikon FG. Then he moved on to the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he learned the history of the civil-rights movement by covering George Wallace's last year as governor.

In 1987 he returned to New York as a reporter for Fortune Magazine and over the next five years he wrote about the computer industry and emerging technologies. During the 1990s Mark worked freelance, contributing articles to Popular Mechanics and writing copy for the talking heads on CNN's Moneyline show. Throughout this period he was also writing novels and short stories, but the only piece of fiction he sold was a short story called "My Life with Joanne Christiansen," which was published in Playboy in 1991.

In 1998 Mark joined the board of editors at Scientific American. With his love for science reawakened, he soon came up with another idea for a novel. While working on a special issue about Albert Einstein, he was intrigued by the story of Einstein's long search for a unified field theory that would explain all the forces of Nature. Mark started writing a thriller about high-energy physics, incorporating many of the real ideas and technologies described in the pages of Scientific American: driverless cars, surveillance robots, virtual-reality combat and so on. The result was "Final Theory," which was published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2008. Foreign rights to the novel were sold in 23 countries, and the film rights were optioned by Radar Pictures. Touchstone also published the sequel, "The Omega Theory" (2011), which was about religious fanatics who try to trigger Doomsday by altering the quantum algorithm of the universe.

Mark switched from physics to neuroscience in 2013 when his third novel "Extinction" was published by the Thomas Dunne Books imprint of St. Martin's Press. In this thriller, the technology of brain-computer interfaces leads to the emergence of a new species of deadly man-machine hybrids who share a super-intelligent collective consciousness. Foreign translations of "Extinction" were published in Greece and Taiwan. In 2014 Thomas Dunne published Mark's fourth thriller, "The Furies," which told the story of an ancient clan who share a genetic mutation so shocking that they were persecuted as witches for centuries and forced to flee to the wilderness of America four hundred years ago. And in July 2015 Sourcebooks Fire will publish Mark's first Young Adult novel, "The Six," a thriller about teens trying to retain their humanity while trapped inside weaponized robots.

Mark lives in Manhattan with his wife and two non-robotic teenagers. He's a proud member of Scientific American's softball team, the Big Bangers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Extinction reads like a cross between The Six Million Dollar Man, a mediocre spy novel, and a cheesy "computers try to take over the world" science fiction novel. It is a fast-paced, unchallenging time-killer that doesn't stand out from other formula fiction.

Jim Pierce builds prosthetic devices. His estranged daughter Layla is a computer hacker. China's Ministry of State Security is displeased that Layla hacked the Chinese government's network with the help of a former Chinese agent named Dragon Fire. Dragon Fire (whose ability to travel unimpeded to the US on short notice goes unexplained) shows up in New York long enough to give Layla a flash drive with information about the evil Dr. Zhang, who has networked the brains of twenty-nine lobotomized dissidents. The network, hidden in a remote compound, is named Supreme Harmony. It is designed to analyze surveillance videos in real time. In a surprise to Dr. Zhang but not to readers of trashy thrillers, Supreme Harmony has an "I am alive" moment and develops a collective consciousness of its own, not unlike the Borg. And like all Computers Gone Bad, it decides it needs to destroy humanity to preserve itself.

Pierce lost his wife, son, and arm during an attack by "al Qaeda martyrs" in Nairobi, one of many overused plot devices upon which Mark Alpert relies. Now Pierce has a bunch of prosthetic arms. He can detach one and snap on a replacement in seconds. One incorporates a machine gun. Yes, a machine gun arm. That, at least, is good for a laugh, as is a Dr. Strangelove moment involving a different prosthetic arm.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Every time a thriller writer is compared to the late, great Michael Crichton, my heart skips a happy beat. I don't think his large shoes will be filled any time soon, but I am delighted to see other writers trodding the same territory. Mark Alpert is a natural for these comparisons. With a degree in astrophysics and more than a decade on the editorial staff of Scientific American magazine, the man knows his science. Extinction is his third foray into the word of fiction.

After a brief prologue, readers are introduced to former soldier Jim Pierce. Himself an amputee, Jim has turned his engineering know-how to the world of high-tech prosthetics. In the novel's opening scene, he's having a consultation with a young soldier, explaining to the wounded man just how advanced these devices have become. The prosthetics Jim builds (and wears) are like something out of a James Bond film, and controlled wirelessly by the user's brain--just like a natural body part.

Shortly after he leaves Jim's workroom, an unexpected visitor arrives asking questions about Jim's estranged, 22-year-old daughter, Layla. The visitor claims to be from the military, but that story quickly breaks down into threats and violence. Jim is more than an ex-soldier, he's a former intelligence officer, and he knows a Chinese spook when he sees one. What the hell has his daughter gotten herself into?

Alpert's tale is not a simple high-concept plot that can be summarized in a few sentences or even paragraphs. I suspect I should quit this synopsis while I'm ahead. Extinction deals with a variety of technologies involving machine-brain interfaces. Some are as innocuous as bionic limbs and eye glasses that function as eyes for the blind.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steve on April 11, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am sorry; I love Michael Crichton-esque books, I love techno-thrillers, I love the Singularity notion - I should have loved this. BUT, it's a great illustration of what happens when you get an author who knows his science inside out, but has a Hollywood Complex.

Extinction has a great premise and it should have worked beautifully; unfortunately it is ruined, for me, by this juvenile series of situations where the story protagonists CONSTANTLY cheat death at the last vital second; I mean, ALL the time, it just gets silly. It has very believably written technology, but is so let down by the YA tone and lack of believability (not the technology, the storyline), I couldn't finish it - I finally stopped when Pierce and Chan escape a major tidal wave that destroys cities by, wait for it, driving ahead of it in a 3-wheeled car UP a 50 metre flight of steps to get above the water line... Oh dear god, and it's FULL of crap like this. And of course, there's the compulsory, unnecessary, love interest. Give me a break.

Very disappointing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Bonet on January 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I just finished Extinction and found it to be a waste of time.. The science was good and Mr. Alpert had a great premise in the creation of the character "Supreme Harmony", but then he just waste it with cliche after cliche in the character of the defense contractor/former ranger/genius prosthetic creator father and his genius hacker/societal dropout/wanted felon daughter. The father seems to be able to kick more butt than Arnold did in the original "Commando" movie and his daugher has more narrow escapes from death and implants than Jamie Lee Curtis had in all her horror movies combined. This is just garbage. Mr. Alpert, you created a believable threatening presences in the character of Supreme Harmony, and then you have it defeated by two cliches. It was a waste of time reading your book.
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