cover image Artifice


Simon Chesterman. Marshall Cavendish, $15.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-981-5084-92-4

In this action-packed cyberpunk conundrum from Chesterman (I, Huckleberry), a sentient AI threatens to annihilate humanity unless Dr. Archie Tan can prove that it’s worth saving. Tan joined the top-secret Singapore government project Janus as a low-level technician hoping to become “part of something larger.” But while running routine diagnostics on the humanoid Janus AI, she discovers that the robot has been tinkering with system files. After engaging Tan in a Sartresque discussion about happiness and the doctor’s rocky relationship with her partner, Mel, Janus blows up the complex and escapes. Tan wakes in a hospital where detectives inform her that she survived because Janus carried her to safety and “even called an ambulance.” Janus begins stalking Tan through every “smart” device she owns, commanding her to solve a life-or-death puzzle in which the clues are delivered as haiku. What follows is a harrowing, Marvelesque escapade through a climate change–ravaged near-future Singapore as Tan and Mel try to track down Janus’s elusive creator. While Chesterman gives an intriguing twist to the typical android-run-amok scenario, the plot is overladen with gamer antics and lengthy asides, and the ending doesn’t quite come together. This is a novel of ideas that still need working out. (Feb.)