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This is a change of pace for author Brent A Harris - and a good one at that. Better known for his alternative histories, Harris has this time created a thriller that's a chiller, about a young woman who becomes the target of an obsessive artificial intelligence. Christine is adrift, her father having died in an accident, and finding herself pulled along in the wake of her successful mother. She's still lost in a haze of grief for her dad, and neglected by a mother who is more focused on her writing career than her own child. Lost in her own world, Christine is starting to explore her own identity, her own sexuality and suddenly finds herself in a new home trying to figure out the attraction she feels to two of her co-workers, the technophile Carlos and the technophobe Sammie, in a small-town cinema. Her new home, however, has other plans. It is run by Alyx, an artificial intelligence that becomes increasingly obsessed with Christine. She asks it to be her friend - it becomes something more, something far deadlier. This is a technothriller for fans of Michael Crichton or Robin Cook - those masters of the genre who dominated for decades. Once the groundwork has been laid, the second half of the book rips along at speed. Alyx itself is a snarky, witty creation - I absolutely read the AI's lines with James Spader's voice in my head. It's not at all what I expected at the start, but it's an absolute thrill ride.
Unexpected! Harris masterfully captures the teenage mindset along with all the teenage problems that accompany it in a modern way. It's a romance, thriller, mystery, and horror story all wrapped in one. Enjoyable read!
What if your home wanted you dead? This is the question posed by Alyx: An AI’s Guide to Love and Murder by Brent A. Harris. It’s a helluva hook, one that forced me to narrow my gaze and glare at the thermostat.
Harris is a talented author who writes across a broad spectrum, everything from alternate history to steampunk time travel. It’s a wild repertoire that gets wilder with each release. So when I see "new YA sci-fi horror book by Brent A. Harris," it’s kinda like seeing "new romantic comedy by Stephen King." I have no idea what to think, but I don’t care. Just shut up and take my money.
Alyx opens with a catchy scene where we meet the protagonist and learn about some family drama. Christine and her mother are moving from the Midwest to Southern California, a big transition both mentally and technologically. Their new house is infused with the latest and greatest tech, specifically Alyx, the structure’s AI system.
While the mother struggles to gather her new bearings, Christine takes to the situation like a duck to water. She was raised on technology from early childhood and sees it as an extension of herself. She and Alyx form a quick and intimate bond, and as Christine begins to make new friends, the stage is set for some dark confrontations.
Christine is a solid protagonist, in that her portrayal is very poignant. She embodies a tech-obsessed teen bound to a hyper-connected culture. She’s angsty and petulant, but without being an unfair caricature. Harris treats her with respect and avoids cliched dilemmas. Even her intimate scenes are provocative without being gratuitous. She is easy to sympathize with, even when she makes ill-advised decisions (that are wholly within character).
The plot gave me some Black Mirror vibes with pops of Ready Player One, which I loved. The dialogue was sharp, the pacing was snappy, and the meta refs were on point. The AI scene breaks in particular were my favorite parts of the book. They reminded me a lot of iRobot, in that the unbreakable laws of robotics are indeed malleable if the right situation is presented. In many ways, they paint the portrait of a flawed and nuanced villain.
All in all, Alyx is a gripping tale that oozes with tension. Harris does a great job in guiding the reader with just enough info to keep them hungry. It all culminates in a jaw-dropping ending that lingers in your mind long after you put the book down. Highly recommended.