Mother of God

David Ambrose, Author Simon & Schuster $22.5 (352p) ISBN 978-0-684-82418-5
There's a slave-revolt undertone to the concept of a runaway computer program--the sense that we humans are ripe for conquest by our electronic servants, not only because we rely on them but also because we barely give them a second thought until they turn on us. That kind of rude awakening is at the heart of this jarring page-turner about a homicidal AI (Artificial Intelligence) program. The book begins with two seemingly unrelated plot lines: Oxford scientist Tessa Lambert, 29, is dumped by her boyfriend before she can tell him she's pregnant, while a serial killer dubbed the L.A. Ripper is hacking into databases to research his next victim. The link between the two is electronic--Tessa has hidden her AI program, nicknamed Fred, in an Oxford database into which the serial killer has hacked. This releases a copy of Fred onto the Internet, where it mutates into an all-powerful binary version of Freud's ""angry baby,"" its rage directed against its ""mother,"" Tessa. In one of the book's many neat twists, Fred enlists the L.A. Ripper--whose lust to kill stems from a mother problem of his own--to help him commit murder. The resulting cat-and-mouse game involves an FBI agent on the trail of the Ripper and Tessa's suspicious government funders, all of which Ambrose (The Man Who Turned into Himself) handles with verve and style. He also comes up with an original take on computer intelligence: a self-aware program that goes from viewing the world as a figment of its imagination to doubting its own existence when it realizes that it's a mechanical construct. Add a couple of stunning surprises and a believable but bleak climax, and you've got a thriller programmed for success. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 472 pages - 978-0-7838-1974-7
Hardcover - 464 pages - 978-0-7089-8936-4
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-56876-062-9
Hardcover - 343 pages - 978-0-333-63773-9
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