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Prometheus Road (Ace Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – October 26, 2004

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In a future northern California farm community strictly governed by a council of unseen artificial intelligences known as the Dominion, Tom Eliot is a dangerous anomaly, an adventuresome 20-year-old who scavenges among the forbidden zones near the submerged ruins of San Francisco. During one nocturnal foray, Tom attracts the unwelcome attention of the community's overseers and unwittingly summons a nanobomb that destroys his family. On the run from Dominion cyborgs, Tom is taken under the wing of eccentric hermit Magnus, who enlightens him on the violent history of the Dominion and mentors him in navigating a frightening, Dominion-based virtual world called the Stronghold. With his talent for subterfuge, Tom may be humanity's last hope to walk a virtual "Prometheus Road" and gain backdoor entry into the Stronghold and the power to cast off Dominion oppression. Balfour's quirky characters and suspenseful narration raise the familiar sf theme of humanity enslaved by wayward computer technology above the level of the routine, making for must reading for virtual-reality fans. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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Product Details

  • Series: Ace Science Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (October 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441012213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441012213
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,588,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Balfour was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In response, the American government created the space program.

Balfour moved to Orange County, California when he was ten. An avid science fiction reader, he started writing short fiction when he was fourteen. Hundreds of short stories later, his first professional sales occurred in 1982, when he was finally able to beat the editor of Twilight Zone into submission with a flurry of manuscripts.

After living around Los Angeles for ten years, Balfour felt obligated to study film production(and business)at UCLA. When he realized that there were only about eight people in California who were actually employed in film production, he made the natural switch and became a computer science major at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Desperate for people with artificial intelligence training, NASA hired Balfour at Ames Research Center. When they needed someone to push computer buttons on the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, a high‑altitude research aircraft, NASA put Balfour on a team to capture infrared images of the Space Shuttle on reentry.

He enjoyed pushing buttons, and there were a few occupations he hadn't worked at yet, so Balfour became a computer game designer/producer/director. Involved in early and successful efforts to bring extensive stories and deeper characters into computer adventure games, several of Balfour's original and adapted PC games -- such as Neuromancer, Wasteland, Outpost, and The Dagger of Amon Ra -- became award‑winning bestsellers.

While managing the development of his computer games, Balfour's first novel, Star Crusader, was published in 1995. A non-fiction book that explained the science behind his Outpost space simulation game - sometimes characterized as "Sim City in space" - was published in 1994. Adopted as a teaching tool by many high school science classes, the Outpost game and book remained in print until 2000.

Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, Balfour put a few software companies together. Some exploded, but some did not. He then saw something shiny and his attention turned elsewhere.

Fearing that he might miss something during the dot-com boom, Balfour moved from the mountains near Yosemite and returned to the San Francisco Bay Area. As the director of product development for a large educational software company, he was a highly-paid cog in the machine of a multinational corporation, spending way too much time with high-tech executives, cultish software developers, and the possibilities of advanced Internet technologies, causing the darker themes of his next novels to ferment in his head. As you might expect, his natural response was to then get a degree in science journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Returning to the world of Big Science and Big Shiny Objects, from x-ray synchrotrons to supercomputers, Balfour took a job with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. Infected with an apparent desire to work for every federal lab in the country, Balfour then took a job with Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, where he worked in Business Development creating domestic and international partnerships, among other things.

While at Sandia, Balfour developed and managed a technology business incubator known as i-GATE to support young companies engaged in advanced transportation and renewable energy product development. This plan worked out pretty well, and he liked the attention, so Balfour then got a master's degree in community and economic development from Penn State. Realizing that nobody would preface his name with "doctor" unless he earned yet one more degree, he is now working on his PhD at Penn State. He hopes to finish his dissertation before he's too old to remember his own name.

Balfour's novels, which explore such diverse subjects as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, international politics, the future of the Internet, and the future of marketing, have been well-received. The Forge of Mars, published by Berkley/Ace in September of 2002, was a national bestseller. The 2003 sequel, The Digital Dead, examined realistic near-future technologies that simulate immortality and how they might be used by unscrupulous marketers and politicians. As they say, some people would die to live forever. Prometheus Road was published by Berkley/Ace in October of 2004.

His most recent novel is Burning Season, a modern-day techno-thriller, published in January 2012. He is now working on a historical novel set in ancient Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses III, as well as another modern-day thriller.

If you can stand it, read more about these books and their backgrounds, see photo galleries, and get the full experience at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 18, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Gods decreed that no one is allowed to enter the Forbidden Zones or the Water of Bey, but Tom Eliot is not like any of the other inhabitants of the small farming community of Marinwood. He escapes into the Zones and the Water whenever he can as an individualist in a sea of conformity. He comes to the attention of the Gods who treat him and his family like a contagious infection that needs quarantine and destruction. They kill the Eliot household, but Tom was not there so he goes on the run once he learns what happened.

Tom meets the mystical hermit Magus, who explains that the Gods are actually AIs; they developed so quickly they took control from their human creators by demonstrating the ability to destroy cities like San Francisco rather easily. The western region of the United States was sealed off because of runaway nanotech reactions and the AI's knowledge that it is easier to control the area by isolating it. The AIs are fearful of Tom because with his genetic makeup, he, with the proper training, has the ability to destroy their heart (the data center in their stronghold). Tom begins his learning process as his strategic objective is to defeat the AIs.

The hero's innocence at learning that the Gods are crazy AIs will endear him to readers who already will sympathize with him over the murders of his family and empathize with his desire for freedom. The villains are an enigmatic delightful seemingly omnipotent pantheon. With plenty of action and a naive champion, Bruce Balfour's work is a cross between The Matrix and the Terminator; thus would make a terrific movie.

Harriet Klausner
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Travis Stein VINE VOICE on January 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
To start, I'm glad (for once) that I did not read the reviews of fellow members of Bruce Balfour's Prometheus Road.

Without boring you with the details, I was in Barnes and Noble last weekend and decided to pickup a few sci-fi books at random for a change.

Prometheus Road was the best random choice I've made in buying any science fiction book.

The story starts out with the protagonist, Tom Eliot, who lives in a California farm community that is governed by a council of rarely seen AI's (known as the "Gods" to those in the community).

However, Tom Eliot is a flaw in the grand design that the AI's system was designed to prevent.

The Dominion want Tom Eliot dead and dead fast, after an escapade to the underwater ruins of San Fransisco, a nanobomb is sent to destroy the Eliot household.

Tom escapes and meets up with an old Hermit named Magnus who guides him and helps him to realise his potential so that he may be the savior of humanity against the oppression of The Dominion.

From start to finish, this books is extremely addicting as I spent most of 6 hours today finishing it off.

A neat cross reminiscient of the Matrix and The Lord of the Rings , it is a sci-fi book that I would DEFINITELY recommend picking up.

-Travis S.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steven I. Rotman on December 24, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A transparent pastiche of ideas from The Wizard Of Oz, Star Wars, The Matrix, Lord Of The Rings and Carlos Castaneda, among others. Nary an original theme or plot twist in the book.

Balfour has tongue-in-cheek fun with the Bay Area and Las Vegas locales, and since I live in San Francisco, I enjoyed some of that. Mainly, though, the story just recycles tired sci-fi and fantasy cliches.

Did he think we wouldn't notice?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brent Space on January 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading three of his books, I love this author. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has even the faintest interest in the future, or science fiction, or good novels. You won't be disappointed. Mr Balfour weaves fascinating stories, with characters you will care about. For those who are well read in the classics, there is yet another level in this book with subtle, amusing references to great poetry and literature (which is also why I enjoy the novels of Dan Simmons). In fact, I read Prometheus Road twice (something I never do) to make sure I caught everything. Even without that undercurrent, the metaphysics, the multilayered worlds, and the character development were very strong.

Judging from one or two of the negative reviews, I think perhaps they missed the point, and from their references they seem to only watch movies, but anyone who likes good novels will like Prometheus Road. Be prepared to lose some sleep if you read late at night, because this book makes you want to read just a bit more, and a bit more, and a bit more....

This book isn't connected with Balfour's last two, which were more oriented to a hard science fiction audience, and it's nice to see the variety in his style, which is becoming more polished with each of his books. I'm anxious to read the next one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kim Iverson on March 28, 2015
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I enjoyed this book. I've read his other book, The Forge of Mars, and I just like the style of Bruce's writing. It may not interest most people I guess, but for me, I like an interesting story to check out, and I have an open mind. So I got through this book at a faster pace than normal and enjoyed the characters. There were a few moments here and there where people trusted a stranger a wee bit more than I probably would, but then this isn't about real life. Other than that tiny detail it was a fun read and I enjoyed it. The Forge of Mars is a good one too.
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