- Steve Berry, New York Times Best Selling Author
Levin plumbs his career in high-tech and his degree in philosophy to ask important "what if" questions. Primary among these is whether people could live forever through computers. This idea leads the protagonist, Sam Sunborn, down a slippery slope. "Can you imagine a world where we can live on beyond our physical lives in a digital world?" Sam asks. "Where we could still interact with our loved ones, read and enjoy all the 'pleasures of the mind' just like when we were alive?" Unfortunately, Sam's research draws the attention of the Barinian terrorist The Leopard, who sends gunmen after Sam's team, resulting in the physical death and virtual rebirth of his mentor, Frank Einstein (no relation to Albert). The Leopard, a master strategist, is seeking vengeance for his family, killed by U.S. drones: "These were the so-called virtuous Americans, killing indiscriminately based on shaky intelligence." Sam figures that the best defense is a good offense. So he gathers a band to inhibit The Leopard's plans, including his own employees, some young hackers from the U.S. Cyber Command, police detective Al Favor, and Rich Little from Homeland Security. They largely block The Leopard's scheme to take over America's air-control system. But then the group must devise a way to stop his master stroke: sabotaging nuclear plants across the nation. Levin's biggest accomplishment is to make readers ponder which scenarios terrorists could actually accomplish. While people may not yet be able to live on digitally, otherwise, as Levin explains in his Author's Notes, "all the science and technology in this book is currently available and being deployed." He also provides links for those whose curiosity has been piqued by his novel. Levin's pacing is admirable. His story never drags, despite some very technical passages, and leads up to a satisfying twist ending. He's developed highly believable characters, including the terrorists, who many times end up being one-dimensional in this genre's tales. Best of all, many of them survive so that future series installments are possible. But the author has set the bar high with this promising, well-crafted debut.
A tense, high-powered techno-thriller." - Kirkus Review
Sam Sunborn has come up with a brilliant idea: what if it were possible to create a digital memorial for people? This isn't the sort of digital memorial you're probably thinking of, a website set up by survivors to remember someone they loved who has passed. This sort of memorial would be set up by the person before their death, so that they could leave messages for their loved ones. Said loved ones could also upload pictures and videos as their way of remembering. It sounds pretty straightforward so far, but then Sam meets Frank Einstein, a neuroscientist who has been working on digitizing thoughts and memories. This is where the sci-fi starts: Frank and Sam team up to upload people's consciousness onto the Internet, creating virtual immortality.
On its own, this would make for a pretty solid short story, perhaps with some commentary on the mind-body connection and whether we can be defined solely by our thoughts. Charles Levin turns it into a thriller by adding a proper, timely antagonist: a terrorist named Ahmed LaSalam who is intent on bringing America to its knees. He crosses paths with Sam and his team, who soon find themselves in a race against time to stop him.
NOT SO DEAD is the perfect thriller for the twenty-first century. It takes technology we already have and pushes it just far enough that you start to wonder "what if," without going so far that it becomes entirely unbelievable. The action is fast-paced and exciting, and the hero and villain are set up in a perfectly matched game of cat-and-mouse that left me guessing all the way through. If you're looking for a thriller with a solid grounding in computer science and modern politics, then Not So Dead is exactly what you need to read next. - San Francisco Book Review