Saturday 6 February 2016

Imagine (Fuzed Trilogy, Book 2) by David E Stevens

Imagine (Fuzed Trilogy Book 2)

Josh Fuze and Elizabeth stand on a cliff top overlooking the Atlantic. Silhouetted by the setting sun, they have ringside seats for the comet’s arrival. As it rips through the atmosphere, it triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanos. Josh joins Elizabeth on a U.N. medical relief mission to South America. Their small plane crash-lands after its navigation is hacked. Learning that cyber terrorists stole the CIA’s files on him, Josh agrees to help the Agency find the hackers. While training at the “The Farm,” he receives a text from Jen, who claims to be a genetic construct like him, but she is a precocious seven-year-old computer whiz. Hoping to learn more about their shared mysterious benefactor, Josh enlists her help to find the hackers and gain her trust. They discover the cyber-attacks are coming in through the world’s most popular smartphone app – iMagine. Created by the young Chinese-American engineer Dr. Jessica Lee, the digital assistant’s amazing power comes from sharing processing power between phones.

As the attacks escalate, Dr. Lee leaves for China. Josh pursues her to Shanghai, but Chinese agents find him first. After a wild escape in a prototype jetpack, Josh finds that Lee’s father is a Chinese general and her mother a top geneticist. The cyber terrorists publish every private and classified document online and begin translating everything into Chinese. Stock markets go into freefall as the world unites against China. On the verge of WWIII, the CIA Director learns that Josh has only half the DNA of a normal person and has Asian genes. Could he be a sleeper agent, literally made in China? With nuclear bombers inbound, the Chinese Premier pulls Josh into a last ditch teleconference of world leaders, where they uncover something more dangerous than global nuclear war. 

A sample can be read at the end of this review. 

The Guru's Review: 

Another very impressive work by Stevens! This follows on very nicely from Impact, Book 1. I was very fortunate to have been given an unedited version from the author. It was so good to be able to read this next installment straight after the previous. Again, this is a cannot-put-down novel, action packed, mystery and suspense. Josh is in deep in the action and intrigue, as usual, and in his element. It is really good to have characters from Book 1, Tim Smith, Brian Davidson, Greg Langlois and of course, Elizabeth return as well.

In my review of Impact, I stated I was looking forward to seeing the relationship develop further between Josh and Elizabeth and in this novel, their relationship has resulted in marriage and they seem very happy indeed. Very happy with this. 

Stevens continues the plot regarding the comet that was left unfinished in Impact and this, while giving closure to the comet storyline, helps set the plot for this novel. Smooth transition from the former storyline to this installment. Stevens is a master at storylines flowing smoothly.  

Readers of this review beware! From this point on, I do discuss some things that may spoil it for those who have not read this novel yet, but I include them not to spoil the plot for these readers, but to show how masterfully Stevens has dealt with the issues he includes in this novel. So scroll down if you want to continue reading and don't mind what I include for the rest of the review.

It is an effect of the comet that has a major influence on the plot line in this novel. It seems that each of the three (or 4, yes there may be a fourth) novels will contain a theme that Stevens sees as a major threat to life on this planet either including all life on earth or specific threats to the human race. It is the latter that is portrayed in this novel. Not only does Stevens portray how technology, in this case, computer technology, can get out of hand, but highlights how the human race would/could deal with artificial intelligence (AI). It raises the questions on how does the human race control AI and do we consider AI as a living entity? Do we give it the same rights as the human race? Do we consider the human race as the authority that AI answer to and is accountable to? Will the human race remain fearful of AI? How do we learn to co-exist in a mutual and beneficial relationship? Does AI have a soul? If there is a God who is Creator, where does AI fit in with this?

These questions were treated very well and balanced by Stevens, and in doing so, gives us some very serious technical, ethical and practical issues to consider in dealing with this potential new reality. He is very masterful in including the technical aspects of how AI could develop and also very skillfully portrays the pitfalls of our software in relation to AI. When a software virus gets out of control and shuts down everything controlled by software worldwide, Stevens illustrates just how reliant on software we are. He does so through the character of 
President Yager who states, 
Without our software, we lose communication and control, without those, we lose transportation, and without that, the flow of food stops followed by power and water. This nightmare may have been beneficial in showing us how vulnerable we are. With our total dependence on complex technology, we're a few short steps from anarchy. 
Through another character, Shearer, Stevens continues this theme, 
Our critical infrastructure, power, water and communication must be controlled by hardware, not software. We must use EMP hardened electronic controllers and dedicated communication links that can't be affected by software, Critical services, such as food and fuel stores, must have software-free backup systems, so we can manually activate fuel pumps and accept paper currency. It's not just artificial intelligence we have to worry about: a massive solar storm could also bring us to our knees."
Here, Stevens seems to be giving a solution and challenge to this potential threat to how we live and whether we return to the pre-electronic age. As with the previous novel, and I presume with the others to follow, Stevens writes of these threats with passion and concern for the earth and all life, not just for the human race. He challenges us that if we identify of these threats, then with unity, co-operation, knowledge of science and technology, we can work towards a solution to either preventing them or minimising their effects. 

Stevens is one author who successfully blends suspense, science and technology, a touch of the supernatural, romance, mystery and intrigue into one very entertaining, educational, thought provoking novel. 

After reading this instalment, I am even more eager to read Book 3, and to see the movie versions of this series.  

This instalment is a must-read!

Highly Recommended. 

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