From the Publisher
“Provocative and scary, there's an utter realism that leaps from every page. You'll find yourself not only savoring a peek into the psyche, but one into the future as well.” Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Jefferson Key
“Here is a thriller that is as cutting-edge as the keenest scalpel, written by a young neurosurgeon and expert on brain-computer interfaces. The action is fast and furious, even as the novel grapples with some of the deepest and most disturbing questions in medicine, computing, and the nature of consciousness.” Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author of Impact
“A terrifying journey into the promise and peril of artificial intelligence. You'll never look at a computer chip the same way again.” J.E. Fishman, bestselling author of The Dark Pool
“Leuthardt puts his expertise as a neurosurgeon to good use in his impressive debut.” Publishers Weekly
“Leuthardt describes a world that others have imagined wherein humans have chosen to 'upgrade' by adding computer interfaces to their brains . . . but he adds his own spin with neuroscience and computing details. . . . Fans of the intersection between hard science and wetware should relish this tale.” Library Journal
Leuthardt puts his expertise as a neurosurgeon to good use in his impressive debut, a medical thriller set in 2053. Dr. Hagan Maerici, a renowned neurosurgeon, struggles to keep his dissolving marriage together; teach his artificial intelligence avatar, Omid, how to correctly interpret proverbs; and placate his demanding boss. In the mid-21st century, most people have neuroprosthetics implanted in their brains, allowing brain-to-brain communication and a host of other supercapabilities. Three gruesome murders in St. Louis, Mo., of people with ties to Maerici, however, personally and professionally upset his routine. Two detectives, Edwin Krantz and his partner, Tara Dezner, utilize ultramodern crime-busting techniques in conjunction with Maerci’s scientific know-how to try to unravel the extremely complicated case. Readers will have to pay close attention and may have to read some passages more than once to keep track of the future science, but those who stick with it will be rewarded. Agent: Adam Chromy, Artists and Artisans. (Feb.)
Leuthardt brings his professional expertise as director of the Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology at Washington University to bear in this next-generation cyber-thriller. His protagonist, Dr. Hagan Maerici, is, like Leuthardt, a pioneer in neuroprosthetics, albeit 40 years in the future. Working with a quantum computing construct named Omid, Maerici is certain that Omid is on the verge of achieving true artificial intelligence, but his research is interrupted when three of his very wealthy clients all go on bizarre murderous rampages at the same time. Dets. Edwin Krantz and Tara Dezner seek the neurosurgeon's assistance to decipher the suspects' behavior and make possible connections. Dezner, a former SEAL data warrior, soon discovers that the most significant connection among the three murderers is Maerici. VERDICT Leuthardt describes a world that others have imagined wherein humans have chosen to "upgrade" by adding computer interfaces to their brains in order to directly access the web and control mechanical devices but he adds his own spin with neuroscience and computing details. The crime element, while gruesome in places, adds additional interest. Fans of the intersection between hard science and wetware should relish this tale.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib, Wisconsin Rapids
Neurosurgeon and biomedical engineer Leuthardt leans on his medical background in this futuristic debut thriller. Dr. Hagan Maerici has problems, not the least of which is that his wife can't seem to understand that, unless he works harder and more efficiently, he'll soon be cut out of the research he loves: marrying human consciousness and artificial intelligence in a revolutionary way. It's 2053, and most individuals (except for the very old, technophobes and some religious extremists) are connected by virtue of implants in the brain that make the transmission of information instantaneous and personalized. People can make phone calls, access information and even track one another using these neurological implants. And researchers like Maerici have high hopes that when the breakthrough he's working on comes through, it will yield huge results and profits, since AI will be able to actually think for itself. Then, things start happening that change the playing field: People die, and the deaths are neither explicable nor ordinary. Instead, the over-the-top violent murders are perpetrated by well-known citizens who seemingly have no motive to kill the decedents. When two St. Louis police detectives, old-timer Edwin Krantz and former Navy SEAL Tara Dezner, take on the homicides, they soon find themselves hip-deep in an inexplicable phenomena. It's apparent from the book's beginning that Leuthardt knows his subject matter. However, this novel isn't written on a level that the average science-fiction or medical-thriller reader will appreciate. His language choices often lean toward the esoteric, which makes the tale's already odd construction even more difficult to follow. Weaving in and out of the various lives of his characters, Leuthardt seems to assume his readers already understand the world he's created, making his universe overly complicated and technical. Most of the author's characters spend a disproportionate hunk of the story in states of confusion, a state that will be shared by many of the novel's readership.
Read an Excerpt
**2053, FRIDAY, 2:01 PM**
“Have a seat, Hagan.” The man gestured toward the black leather sofa in front of his desk. He was tall and bony and wore a white coat that was impeccably ironed and creased. With his broad bald dome of a head and small pallid ice-fleck-colored eyes, he had an annoyed look that suggested an irritable impatience. His chin was barely distinguishable from his thin neck, his face was small and pale, and the residual hair of his eyebrows and thin mustache were all a white blond. To Hagan, he looked more like an asshole than usual.
Sighing to himself, Hagan sat down. The pitch of the seat always tilted him slightly back so that his knees were higher than his buttocks. He never could position himself to sit up straight and always had to lean to the side or with his legs bowed out to lean forward, making him feel like was sitting on a toilet. Like he was a kid in the principal’s office, the conversations always began with “have a seat.” He prepared himself for the usual preamble.
“Hagan, I have been looking at your numbers, and they are not good.” Hagan’s chairman put his fingertips together and touched the tip of his nose for a long pause. “You are not generating the revenue you ought to be, either in clinical fees or in grants. Some things are going to have to change, Hagan.”
“Simon, you and I both know the market is down. Elective surgeries are always the first to take the hit. It’s a small downturn, and cases are sure to pick up in the spring.”
“Are you giving me excuses, soldier?”
Hagan rolled his eyes. Simon Canter, his boss, loved to take on military lingo when they would argue. Hagan knew Simon thought it made him sound tough or commanding or something. To Hagan, it just sounded silly.
“Simon, Jesus, no. What am I supposed to do—pull people into the OR against their will?”
“Market or no market, if it takes more work beating the bushes to get patients, then that’s what you gotta do. Less time in that little closet and more time out in the community talking to the primary care docs. If there is less water in the towel you gotta wring it harder, got me?”
“You know that’s more than a little closet, Simon.” Hagan could feel the heat rise on the back of his neck.
“To me, since your research isn’t generating any research dollars from Uncle Sam, it may as well be a closet.”
“I’m close, you know that, you’ve seen it, for Pete’s sake. I just need to take it a little further, and we’re not going to have any complaints about money for this department, I promise.”
“You promise, you keep saying, ‘its gonna happen, its gonna happen.’” Hagan watched as Simon put up his fingers to form the annoying quotation marks. “I need more than empty air—I need results. I need you to say to me, ‘mission accomplished.’ You keep saying neuromorphic artificial intelligence is the future; well, I need to pay bills in the present.”
“Dammit, Simon, do I really need to spell it out for you? If we were having this same conversation thirty years ago, you would be arguing against all the work that went into neuroprosthetics. Look what changed—every human’s mind is connected and augmented in every way possible. You and I, and about ninety percent of the human population, have a neuroprosthetic implanted. We can use our thoughts to engage the world beyond the limits of our bodies, brain-to-brain communication has changed the way humans interact, we can fix almost any brain injury, and the virtual reality—it’s changed the way we do everything. It’s what fucking built this city.”
“Do you also want to tell me about how my car works? I already know all this. What’s your point?” Canter asked snidely.
Hagan sighed. “Creating truly artificial intelligence based on the human brain’s architecture is the next step. After three decades of implants we have the data—all we need to do is apply it. Again, Jesus, you know that. Once we get there, we can make armies of virtual scientists to solve every problem in medicine. We can have enough intellectual resources to answer pretty much every question that the human species can’t currently figure out. It’s worth the sacrifice.”
“Show me the money, Hagan, show me the money. We are living in the here and now in 2053—not thirty years in the past, not thirty years in the future. And here in the present, no grants, no science, no cases—no salary.”
Copyright © 2014 by Eric C. Leuthardt