The Truth Machine: A Novel of Things Come

Overview

The pivotal election year of 2004 will determine more than the next president of the United States. Violent crime continues to be the number one political issue in America. For many citizens, a vote for Senator Travis Hall is also a vote for his controversial Swift and Sure Anti-Crime Bill, a measure that guarantees a previously convicted violent criminal one fair trial, one quick appeal, then immediate execution. Voters overwhelmingly support the idea, surrendering their individual rights and due process of law ...
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Overview

The pivotal election year of 2004 will determine more than the next president of the United States. Violent crime continues to be the number one political issue in America. For many citizens, a vote for Senator Travis Hall is also a vote for his controversial Swift and Sure Anti-Crime Bill, a measure that guarantees a previously convicted violent criminal one fair trial, one quick appeal, then immediate execution. Voters overwhelmingly support the idea, surrendering their individual rights and due process of law with a resounding "yes" for capital punishment. One of the most influential businessmen in the world, Harvard graduate and software prodigy Randall Armstrong, has one goal: to build a machine that can detect lies with 100 percent accuracy. But aside from assuring the guilt in death-row cases, the device has broad implications for a planet on a collision course with self-destruction. Once perfected, the Truth Machine changes the face of the world. Most lawyers find themselves looking for new, productive jobs as crime, violent behavior, and court cases are eliminated, virtually overnight. Individuals are truth-tested for civil litigation and mediation. Political candidates must be perfectly frank, no longer relying on popular opinion polls or harboring hidden agendas. Refusal to submit to the Truth Machine brands a politician un-electable. Through a series of simple questions, the Truth Machine can diagnose mental illness with astonishing success. As its use spreads from courtroom to politics, to diplomacy, business, science, education, and finally into every home throughout the world, the Truth Machine reshapes the very nature of humanity. But ultimately, the fate of the earth rests with humankind. Are we up to the challenge?
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What would the world be like if scientists developed the perfect lie detector? How would it change our criminal justice system? Psychiatric practice? International diplomacy? In his first novel, Halperin argues that such an invention could lead humanity into an era of unequaled prosperity, one in which crime is virtually unknown and true democracy is possible. A professional numismatist and a member of the World Future Society, Halperin is a relatively unskilled novelist. His prose is at best workmanlike, and his plotting and character development tend toward the simplistic. Nearly all of his major characters, from millionaire-genius protagonist Pete Armstrong on down, seem to be either the smartest, the richest, the most respected or the most influential people in the world. The traditional qualities of fiction are apparently of only secondary interest to the author, however. As a futurist, Halperin seems primarily concerned with suggesting innovations and then working out their implications over half a century. Heavily didactic, but supporting positions across the political spectrum, the book argues in favor of mandatory capital punishment for certain crimes, the privatization of schools, strict limits on insurance settlements, the elimination of the FAA, the legalization of assisted suicide, parental licensing and the establishment of a world government. Although crude from a literary point of view, Halperin's novel is not without strengths. His speculations about the next 50 years are fascinating, and the consequences of the truth machine are well worked out. In the final analysis, it's hard to believe that Halperin's near-utopian future could be so easily attained, but it would be nice to live there. 150,000 first printing; six-figure ad/promo; author tour; U.K. rights sold. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Beginning in 1991 and traversing almost 60 years, this story follows Randall Peterson "Pete" Armstrong from child prodigy, through Harvard at age 12, to fame and wealth from his invention of ACIP (Armstrong Cerebral Image Processor)the Truth Machinein Dallas. While ACIP revolutionizes the legal, penal, and political systems as well as personal and business relations and fosters a world government, Pete harbors a terrible secret that will be exposed when the ACIP patent expires in 2049. Narrated by a computer, this speculative novel foresees a bright future if only everyone was forced to tell the truth. First novelist Halperin posits an interesting "what-if" with no apparent drawbacks. Recommended for sf collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345410566
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/17/1996
  • Pages: 321
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Like his protagonist, James L. Halperin was born and raised in Massachusetts, attended Harvard, and eventually settled in Dallas, Texas. There the similarities end. He now directs the world's largest rare coin company. This is his first novel; he is already hard at work on his next.
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Read an Excerpt

TRUTH MACHINE: EXCERPT
CHAPTER 1: CHAIN OF FURY


Massachusetts State Prison


September 6, 1991--The cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union has just ended following an unsuccessful coup against Mikhail Gorbachev's reformist government. Gorbachev remains in power, but Boris Yeltsin, whose heroic actions during the coup may have saved Gorbachev's government, is now a force with which to be reckoned. Communism, for all practical purposes, is dead.--The United States, in the midst of economic recession after the Gulf War against Iraq, is entering a dangerous time of increasing isolationism. Many voters resent seeing America's resources exploited to solve the problems of other nations and insist their leaders focus attention on problems at home, particularly the economy and violent crime.


"According to your file you were raped by your father and you murdered your mother. Tell me about that."

Those were the first words Daniel Anthony Reece, Jr. heard from Dr. Alphonso Carter. Reece was shocked. Carter didn't ask if he had been happy in school, or what his childhood had been like before the "incident," or any of the other standard questions. Just my luck, Reece thought. Affirmative action. This monkey should be flipping hamburgers, but instead he's my goddam shrink.

In fact, Dr. Carter was famous in criminal psychology circles, and well known even outside his field. Just 31 years old, he had co-authored the best-selling book, Chain of Fury--The Cycle of Savagery in America, and so could afford to pass up the financial enticements of private practice. AtMassachusetts State Prison, Carter immersed himself in the study of violence--and those who commit it. Thus he had developed a depth of understanding of the criminal mind exceptional for a man of his time.

Carter's voice boomed and his diction was perfect, like that of a trained actor. As a boy he had stuttered horribly, the butt of cruel and inevitable teasing by the other kids in the neighborhood, until a drama teacher from the Booker T. Washington Middle School discovered his concealed talent. By the time he graduated from high school, Carter had played the lead in "Othello." Even now his speech often seemed more like performance than conversation. Never did he use contractions or resort to street lingo.

"Mr. Reece?"

Reece sat back in his chair and sucked on a kitchen match. The two were less than four feet apart, separated by nothing--not a desk, not a coffee table. Carter's legs were crossed, his hands folded, his massive head shaved above a face so black that when he smiled his gums seemed blue.

Reece glared. Defiance showed in his eyes-and something else.

Contempt, Carter thought to himself. Mr. Reece is a racist. He plied his sense of timing and patience. Perfectly still and silent, he gazed at Reece with such intensity that the inmate felt as though Carter was peering straight into his brain.

Reece had always enjoyed therapy sessions. In a way, he was addicted to them. Talking about himself with the various psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers made him feel important, as though his life meant something, and as if there might be some hope for him. The more he disclosed, the better he felt.

He now realized that this new shrink wasn't going to utter another word; it was up to Reece to say something next, or there would be no further discussion.

Finally he blurted, "I was only nine, but I knew there was gonna be trouble. Dad got mean when he was drunk and I knew he'd been drinkin' a long time 'cause he got home so late. I heard them arguin'--my mother and him I mean. Then I heard her go. She just left me with him. I never forgave her."

Did I just tell him I blamed my mother for what happened?

Suddenly Reece wasn't enjoying himself at all. He had never said that before. Not to anyone. What's this black bastard doing that's so different?

"You never forgave your mother, but it was your father who brutally raped you. Tell me your thoughts about him."

Again the words came in a rush, unconsidered and unedited: "I didn't really understand what was going on. I was in shock. He was like a runaway train and I was the track. Nothin' could stop him. He smelled so bad. And it hurt. It hurt like hell."

Carter leaned toward Reece from the edge of his chair.

"Are you absolutely certain your mother knew what was happening?"

"Certain? Shit yeah. My mother was a goddam coward, but she wasn't dumb. She knew exactly what would happen if she left me alone with him. She knew. Next day, she wouldn't even take me to the doctor. Scared shitless he'd call in the Child Protection--maybe lose them their precious welfare checks. Fuckin' right she knew."

"Did you ever tell anyone else?"

"Yeah, I sure did. I told my best friend, Joey DelGreco. Know what he said?"

"Tell me."

"Joey says, 'Well I think that means you're a queer now.' That's what he said. But he never told anyone else. Even after we stopped bein' friends which was right around then." Reece laughed. "Maybe he was afraid everybody'd think he was a fruit, too."

"So what Joey DelGreco said caused you anxiety. You felt..."

"Haven't you read my file, dumbass? I come home one day about eight years later and my mother's talkin' on the phone. I ask her what's for dinner or somethin' like that. Anyway, she says 'Hold your horses, you little faggot, I'm busy.' and I snap. I just snap. Musta stabbed her 100 times. Carved her up like a goddam side a beef. Afterwards, my arm's so tired I can't even move it. So yeah. Yeah, motherfucker. I guess what Joey DelGreco said caused me some anxiety."

Of course Carter had read the file quite carefully. And as he played back earlier tape recordings of Reece and the state psychiatrist, he realized that Reece had been lying in previous therapy sessions. Before today he had always told the story differently, claiming he blacked out after arguing with his mother. "And then I just remember the police came."

The police came because Reece had called them about 45 minutes after he carved up his mother. It was an action consistent with temporary insanity. Too consistent, Carter believed. Reece's attorney had used the threat of an insanity defense to plea-bargain his case to second degree manslaughter.

Reece would be out of prison in less than four years.

Carter now suspected that matricide had not been Reece's only violent crime. Unknown to Carter, Reece, as a teenager, had been responsible for a string of animal mutilations and two sexual assaults on younger children.

Also, just 16 days ago Reece had stabbed Kendall DeLoach, a fellow inmate who had tried to sell him "protection." Reece's response was to slide a wooden blade he had stashed earlier clean into the inmate's throat. Miraculously DeLoach survived. In keeping with the twisted code of prisoners, the injured inmate told the authorities he had been attacked from behind and therefore couldn't identify his attacker.

In 1991 video cameras were about the size of a man's cap and cost a few hundred dollars each; large and expensive, but not prohibitively so. Yet because of privacy rights, these cameras could not be used in prison cell areas in the United States. So officially the assault by Reece didn't occur. Many of the inmates and a few of the veteran guards knew the real story, but nobody acted on it. They just left Reece alone.

If they hadn't, our world might look very different.
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