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The Kraken Project (Wyman Ford Series) Hardcover – May 13, 2014
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*Starred Review* Preston’s latest solo novel (he’s mostly known as one half of the Preston-Child team who write the Special Agent Pendergast series) takes a wildly implausible premise and turns it into a very entertaining thriller. The Kraken Project is a NASA initiative to send a probe to Titan, a large moon of Saturn. Because of the distance involved, real-time control of the probe is impossible, so NASA decides to make the probe autonomous via cutting-edge artificial-intelligence software. But the software, called Dorothy, malfunctions and escapes into the Internet, where it plans a reign of terror that begins with revenge against its creator and will end with the annihilation of humankind itself. Dorothy’s creator goes on the run; Wyman Ford, ex-CIA agent and star of a few previous novels, is tasked by the president to find the woman (who, most everyone suspects, deliberately unleashed Dorothy). Whether or not you buy the premise of sentient software roaming the Internet, you won’t be able to deny that this is an exciting story. Preston sells the premise by sheer force of will: his characters are so compelling, his storytelling so persuasive, that we buy it all completely, at least as long as we’re inside the book. Bravo. --David Pitt
"Chilling and all too convincing, this brilliant, nightmarish take on the future of cyber-consciousness is one of the few thrillers that truly thrills - while raising questions that should unsettle every one of us."―Booklist
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At one point I half expected Ford to look up at the now-shattered moon (see Preston's previous Ford novel, Impact (Wyman Ford)) whilst camping with his new female companion, and at least acknowledge he was involved in its partial destruction. Or maybe slip in a sly comment about what happens when anyone, as does the AI program named Dorothy, goes looking for God (see Blasphemy.
I started this book in fits and starts, as some chapters were excruciatingly slow or just out of place. As though someone editing this book told Preston to move Chapter X before Chapter M. The secondary story of the young teen with the hobbled leg who dreamt of surfing the Mavericks of California was an unfortunate interruption in an otherwise strong story. My only wish was that it could have been truncated into one or two chapters as a basis for the Dorothy AI entering the teen's robot. By the way, I saw that plot twist coming down the pike when we're first introduced to "Charlie", the boy's father, and the father's dream of one day building a line of robots that every kid in the world would want. Hence my irritation that Preston didn't reveal this until the last moment possible. When Dorothy escapes her on-line predators, the obviousness of where she had gone was a slap in the face to our intelligence.
The weaselly Wall-Street traders, however, were one of the more interesting antagonists in this story. Not interesting because of the unmitigated evil each possessed, but rather learning how these investment bankers trade stocks using algo programs that allow them to perform transactions (short sell) in microseconds. All perfectly legal and hopefully a wakeup call to the panoply of lazy politicians in Congress who think Wall Street greed has finally been fixed.
To me, Books that teach you nothing new about the world we live in are basically useless. You will never find that problem with either a Preston or Child or Preston/Child book. Chapters are the equivalent of a "How it's made" or "Modern Marvels" episode. I finally understand why everyone on the planet should be terrified that Wall Street basically controls the U.S. balance sheet. If you didn't care before, you will after reading this book. I actually checked to see if what Preston wrote was maybe a tad exaggerated. In actuality, he was being restrained about the issue. There IS a gap between the rich and the poor and it's only gotten worse since the housing bubble burst. Thank you Dodd-Frank for all you failed to do.
The only unbelievable plot element in the novel was the visual description of how the Internet would look if you downloaded a person and stuck them into it. It's odd how this book arrived in my mailbox just as the movie Transcendence hit movie theaters. I haven't seen this movie, but I'll be curious to see how they visualized the digital world when Johnny Depp's character gets turned into bits and bytes and uploaded into the cloud.
I knocked a star off the book only because I think the Wyman Ford character could be an interesting book series if Preston gave us some reason to root for him. Like others, I loathe his other book series' creation, Gideon Crew. Ford sounds like someone I'd actually like to knock back a few drinks with, while Crew reminds me of that person who always complains about it being too hot or too cold. I'm hoping that in the next outing, Preston will give Wyman Ford the much-needed attention he deserves.
This book follows the lives of a few folks. Including one artificial being! In all honesty, the "secret" code that Preston writes about could literally be the reason man has not been able of bring about an artificial sentient being that does not go crazy.
A must read for all Douglas Preston fans!
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First of all, the story.Read more