by Eric C. Leuthardt
Cover Artist: Masterfile
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765332561
Date: 04 February 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Ever since Dean Koontz's creepy classic, Demon Seed, in which a computer holds a woman hostage until she bears its child, readers have feared artificial intelligence (AI). Pioneering neurosurgeon and author, Eric C. Leuthardt gives readers another reason to fear AI. He paints a future of which I do not relish being a part. The bored, disillusioned, and permanently injured have all found another means of escape besides the usual addictions of recreational drugs, alcohol, and perversion. Using their computers, they find escape in virtual reality; they create a disguise, i.e., avatar, and enter an imaginary world. Unfortunately, these imaginary worlds can become as deadly as our own real worlds as depicted in such Hollywood films as the recent Inception and, one of my favorites, The Thirteenth Floor.
The setting is St. Louis in the year 2053. There have been quite a few technological advances. Automobiles have been programmed to drive themselves. In fact, computers control every aspect of our lives from driving to grocery shopping. We have lost more of our independence. Computers have become our newest slaves. As with any type of slave, there is eventually going to be a rebellion. There is a Virtua Helmet in which the wearer can transmit their thoughts and experiences to another person. A similar device was also used in such films as Brainstorm, starring Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken, and Strange Days, starring Ralph Fienness and Angela Bassett. The richest man in the world, trillionaire scientist Marcus Devron, has robots that not only perform his landscaping but also compose his landscaping. For example, the pebbles in his walkways are programmed to always remain upright and in alignment when disturbed. This over-reliance on AI leads to a catastrophe reminiscent of the one found in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.
The most important technological advancement is Dr. Hagan Maerici's creation of an AI known as Omid. To the human eye, Omid appears as a small, transparent boy of bluish flesh. Omid is capable of thinking for himself. Fortunately, he is a good character and readers, like me, will develop a fondness for him as they did the boy android David in Steven Spielberg's AI. Omid helps Dr. Maerici and Detectives Krantz and Dezner combat the evil entity known as "RedDevil_4". The characterization is diverse in this novel. Well drawn characters appear alive and vivid. Some of them we like and some of them we hate, such as the repulsive Chameleon with the graphically violent, grotesque tattoos that move along his body as though they are alive.
In the future, citizens are still not happy; they've found another type of addiction to enslave themselves--virtual reality. Some of the science in RedDevil 4 is very high-tech, surreal and abstract. Sometimes I felt as though I was reading a college textbook. The author, Eric C. Leuthardt, is a neurosurgeon and biomedical engineer. The technical jargon he extensively uses causes the plot to move at a slow and steady, but suspenseful, pace for most of the novel. However, it isn't until the last one-hundred pages that the action truly escalates, making the wait worthwhile. Robots become deadly and run amok, computers battle each other and the human body count dramatically rises. Science fiction fans will enjoy similarities that are found when comparing RedDevil 4 to science fiction classic films and novels that have previously been mentioned in this review.