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Artificial Evil by Colin F Barnes

Three hackers. A deadly plot. One chance to save humanity.

 2153. Post-cataclysm. The last city exists beneath a dome where the mysterious benefactors ‘The Family’ tightly control the population with a death lottery and a semi-autonomous network.

All is well until the day family man Gerry Cardle, head of the death lottery, inexplicably finds himself the no.1 target of a malicious Artificial Intelligence. Gerry’s numbers are up, and he has just 7 days to save himself, find the source of the AI, and keep the last stronghold of humanity safe.

Gerry finds help in the shadows of the city from two rogue hackers: Petal – a teenage girl with a penchant for violence, hacking systems and general anarchy, and: Gabriel – a burnt-out programmer-turned-priest with highly augmented cybernetics.

With his new team, Gerry discovers there is more beyond the dome than The Family had let on, and his journey to find the source of the AI leads him through a world of violence, danger, and startling revelations.

Everything is not as it seems.

Gerry is not who he thinks he is.

Evil can be coded…. 

can Gerry and his friends stop it before it destroys humanity?

There’s always something inherently intriguing about a sprawling dystopian metropolis and City Earth is no exception. In City Earth everything is fine as long as you are willing to follow the rules but if you deviate from the norm, the powers that be will hunt you down. The all-encompassing control that The Family attempts to exert feels like a referential nod to the likes of the Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner, or the faceless bureaucracy from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. For the citizens of City Earth, The Family appears to be a benign leadership, for the most part at least, but the truth of course is far more sinister.

Forced to go on the run, Gerry falls in with Petal and Gabe. Both of whom are more than a little odd, but they seem to at least have some sort of idea about what is going on. Slowly, Gerry begins to embrace his new life, and the scene is set for a confrontation with The Family.

Gerry spends a large chunk of the novel try to make sense of events that often appear to be spiraling out of his control. There are various factions, each trying to wrestle power away from one another. In the midst of all this mayhem, Mr. Cardle is finding it increasingly difficult just trying to survive, everyone seems to want a piece of him. I like the air of uncertainty in Gerry. It makes it easy to empathize with his situation. He’s more than a little bewildered by everything that’s going on and it’s his drive to discover the truth that keeps things moving forward.

Artificial Evil really excels when it comes to the interactions between characters. The author has a keen ear for dialogue and the conversations, in particular the one liners that Petal and Gabe deliver, feel like they’ve come direct from my favourite action movies.

Ninjas, man. This sh*t’s gettin’ serious.

As an aside, I think we can all agree that ninjas are indeed an ever-increasing problem. (Sorry I couldn’t resist, that line made me smile when I read it).

Aritifical Evil is a solid start to The Techxorcist trilogy. There are some great characters, an engrossing plot, and some first class hi-tech action. Barnes has successfully made the sometimes difficult jump from short fiction to something more substantial look easy. The fact that he has managed to make it all appear so effortless is a mark of his skill as a writer. I’m looking forward to part two of this trilogy already.

Artificial Evil is published by Anachron Press and is available now.

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