Utopia

Utopia

4.0 65
by Lincoln Child
     
 

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Fasten your seat belts–the white-knuckle thrills at Utopia, the world’s most fantastic theme park, escalate to nightmare proportions in this intricately imagined techno-thriller by New York Times bestselling author Lincoln Child.

Rising out of the stony canyons of Nevada, Utopia is a world on the cutting edge of technology. A theme

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Overview

Fasten your seat belts–the white-knuckle thrills at Utopia, the world’s most fantastic theme park, escalate to nightmare proportions in this intricately imagined techno-thriller by New York Times bestselling author Lincoln Child.

Rising out of the stony canyons of Nevada, Utopia is a world on the cutting edge of technology. A theme park attracting 65,000 visitors each day, its dazzling array of robots and futuristic holograms make it a worldwide sensation. But ominous mishaps are beginning to disrupt the once flawless technology. A friendly robot goes haywire, causing panic, and a popular roller coaster malfunctions, nearly killing a teenaged rider. Dr. Andrew Warne, the brilliant computer engineer who designed much of the park’s robotics, is summoned from the East Coast to get things back on track.

On the day Warne arrives, however, Utopia is caught in the grip of something far more sinister. A group of ruthless criminals has infiltrated the park’s computerized infrastructure, giving them complete access to all of Utopia’s attractions and systems. Their communication begins with a simple and dire warning: If their demands are met, none of the 65,000 people in the park that day will ever know they were there; if not, chaos will descend, and every man, woman, and child will become a target. As one of the brains behind Utopia, Warne finds himself thrust into a role he never imagined–trying to save the lives of thousands of innocent people. And as the minutes tick away, Warne’s struggle to outsmart his opponents grows ever more urgent, for his only daughter is among the unsuspecting crowds in the park.

Lincoln Child evokes the technological wonders of Utopia with such skill and precision it is hard to believe the park exists only in the pages of this extraordinary book. Like Jurassic Park, Utopia sweeps readers into a make-believe world of riveting suspense, technology, and adventure.

UTOPIA — Where technology dazzles–and then turns deadly!

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Child’s latest is a beautifully crafted scare-fest….Here’s hoping for a sequel.”
-PEOPLE (1/13/03)

“A sensational piece of popular entertainment. If you are looking for intelligent fun, it doesn’t get much better than this.”
-The Washington Post 12/16/02)

"The blend of technological jargon and suspense results in a real thrill-a-minute read."
-Booklist

"The novel's namesake—a cutting-edge, futuristic theme park—is a tour-de-force of the imagination, one of the most extraordinary settings for a thriller I've ever read."
-Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling co-author of Relic and Rip Tide.

"In this ultra-entertaining new novel, Lincoln Child weaves fascinatingly plausible technologies and a frighteningly believable tale. It’s Brave New World meets Jurassic Park.”
-Dan Brown, bestselling author of Digital Fortress

Publishers Weekly
A fantastic near-future amusement park is the setting for this techno-thriller by Child (coauthor with Douglas Preston of the Preston/Child bestsellers) in his first solo outing. Utopia, a Nevada amusement park extraordinaire, features several elaborate holographic theme worlds (like Camelot and Gaslight, which meticulously recreates Victorian England), all run by an ultrasophisticated computer system and serviced by robots. When a series of fluke accidents culminates in the near death of a boy on a Gaslight roller coaster, the Utopia brain trust calls in the original computer engineer, Dr. Andrew Warne. Warne arrives with his bristly 14-year-old daughter, Georgia, and sets to work solving the Gaslight problem, though he can't believe that the system is willfully malfunctioning, as the evidence seems to indicate. To complicate matters, Utopia's manager, Sarah Boatwright, is Warne's ex-girlfriend, and an obvious mutual attraction exists between Warne and Utopia systems controller Teresa Bonifacio. Just as Warne gets to work, violent attacks erupt all over the park, masterminded by an impassive psychopath known as John Doe and carried out by his cadre of henchmen, including a computer genius and a crack marksman. For three hours, Doe holds the park hostage, and Warne, Boatwright and Bonifacio race against the clock to foil his plans. Child creates a convincingly self-contained world, populated by amusing creations like a cyber-dog called Wingnut and clever descriptions of futuristic amusement park rides. Sluggish prose and an overload of technical detail slow the pace, but Child proves he is capable of fireworks (literally) at the rousing conclusion. (Dec.)
VOYA
The most technologically advanced amusement park in the world is Utopia. Located in an isolated corner of the barren Nevada desert, it consists of four separate theme worlds: Camelot, where guests encounter life in the Middle Ages; The Boardwalk, which is a flashback to the United States of the early 1900s; Gaslight, where visitors encounter the world of Victorian England; and Callisto, where the setting is the future in space. Each world is accurate, yet safe, thanks to Andrew Warne's amazing computer wizardry. Andrew returns to Utopia accompanied by his teenage daughter, Georgia, to work on a fifth world, but the real reason for his presence is that computers have been malfunctioning, rides have failed, and a fatality has even occurred. When Andrew attempts to diagnose and fix the system, he finds the problems are being caused by a group of high-tech criminals determined to hold the park hostage for the lives of every single person enjoying Utopia. Teens will be interested by the inside story of how huge amusement parks are run, they will be carried along by Child's roller-coaster writing, and they will especially enjoy the character of successful computer nerd Andrew. Give this book to teens who enjoyed other tales of theme parks gone hugely wrong, such as Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Knopf, 1990/VOYA June 1991), or to those who may have discovered Westworld, Crichton's 1973 film about an amusement park where the computers take over. Teens are guaranteed to finish the book, wishing that the amusement park Utopia actually existed. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adultand Young Adult). 2002, Doubleday, 385p,
— Joanna Morrison
Library Journal
Child departs from Douglas Preston, his coconspirator on books like Relic, to craft this creepy tale of trouble at a techno theme park. Criminals take over the computer system and threaten bloody havoc if their demands aren't met. Can computer genius Dr. Andrew Warne save the day?
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Utopia, the largest, most technologically advanced theme park in the world, draws in revenue to match its size. When problems begin to show up with the Metanet, the system controlling the robotics in the park, no one suspects anything but a computing error. When Dr. Andrew Warne, designer of the Metanet and the robotics, comes to fix the trouble, bringing his teenage daughter with him, the two are immediately caught up in terrorist plots to frighten both staff and visitors. Child takes the story chronologically through one day's events, increasing the tension as time ticks by. Minutes are noted, emphasizing the amount of action occurring in a small segment of time, and events that may be happening simultaneously in another part of the park are also pointed out. In this not-too-remote future, the technology ranges from realistic, full-sized holograms to advanced communications systems. Dr. Warne carries most of the character development, but Angus Poole almost steals the lead. He is visiting the park when he becomes involved in rescuing others after a terrorist event. His background in both military and security training provides him with the ability to perform the physical action required. Together, Warne and Poole make an unbeatable team, but admirable secondary characters, including a robot, add to this fast-paced adventure.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A book that was much better when it had dinosaurs in it. This time around, the deadly park in question is the eponymous Utopia, a sort of mixture of Westworld and Disneyland rising out of the desert outside of Las Vegas. Conceived by Child (coauthor, with Douglas Preston: Thunderhead, 1999, etc.), built by Eric Nightingale, a Walt Disney-like children's entertainment impresario, the park is a technological wonder set into the desert canyons that includes four different themed worlds: Gaslight (old London), Callisto (space age future), Camelot (medieval times) and Boardwalk (a Coney Island simulacra). Not to mention the casinos that, together with the $75 entry fee, the gift shops and restaurants, take in a total of about $100 million a week. So no reader should be surprised that just as Dr. Andrew Warne, the computer genius who designed much of Utopia's hyperautomated mesh of computers and robots, arrives in Utopia, a band of criminals is putting their big heist into play. They've got inside people, a deadly sniper on the outside, a brilliant hacker, and a psychopathic leader named John Doe. Having thoroughly hacked Utopia's systems, Doe's people are able to kill at whim among Utopia's 65,000 visitors, especially by causing the park's rides to suddenly malfunction, if park personnel don't give in to their demands. It's up to a fast-thinking Warne, a plucky tech sidekick named Terri, and a right-place-at-the-right-time guest by the name of Poole who's on Warne's side and just happens to have a background in security. Child's descriptions of the park in all its holographic glory is so lovingly and precisely detailed that you hate to have to deal with the mostly clueless people who dashabout this deadly paradise just as they've been doing since the invention of the disaster novel. There are worse ways to kill a few hours than with Utopia, but, oh, what it could have done with a batch of hungry velociraptors.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345455208
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/02/2003
Edition description:
First Ballantine Mass Market Edition
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
135,599
Product dimensions:
4.16(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

LINCOLN CHILD is the coauthor, with Douglas Preston, of Relic, Riptide, The Cabinet of Curiosities, and other bestsellers. He lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
Westport, Connecticut
Education:
B.A., Carleton College, 1979
Website:
http://www.prestonchild.com

Read an Excerpt

7:30 AM

From its jumping-off place at Charleston Boulevard, above the Las Vegas strip, Rancho Drive makes a casual bend to the left and heads straight for Reno. It arrows northwest with absolute precision, ignoring all natural or artificial temptations to curve, as if in a hurry to leave neon and green felt far behind. Country clubs, shopping centers, and finally even the sad-looking ersatz adobe suburbs fall away. The Mojave Desert, tucked beneath the asphalt and concrete sprawl, reasserts itself. Spidery tendrils of sand trace their way across what the signs start calling Route 95. Joshua trees, hirsute and sprawling, dot the greasewood desert. Cacti stand like standard-bearers to the emptiness. After the frantic, crowded glitter, the gradual transition to vast empty spaces seems otherworldly. Except for the highway, the hand of man appears not to have touched this place.

Andrew Warne tilted his rearview mirror sharply upward and to the right, sighing with relief as the dazzling brightness receded. "How could I possibly have come to Vegas without bringing dark glasses?" he said. "The sun shines 366 days a year in this place."

The girl in the seat beside him smirked, adjusted her headphones. "That's my dad. The absent-minded professor."

"Ex-professor, you mean."

The road ahead was a burning line of white. The surrounding desert seemed bleached by the glare, yucca and creosote bush reduced to pale specters. Idly, Warne laid the palm of his hand against the window, then snatched it away. Seven-thirty AM, and already it had to be a hundred degrees outside. Even the rental car seemed to have adapted to the desert conditions: its climate control was stuck on the maximum AC setting.

As they approached Indian Springs, a low plateau rose to the east: Nellis Air Force Base. Gas stations began to appear every few miles, out of place in the empty void, sparkling clean, so new they looked to Warne as if they'd just been unwrapped. He glanced at a printed sheet that lay clipped to a folder between their seats. Not far now. And there it was: a freeway exit sign, bright green, newly minted. Utopia. One mile.

The girl also noticed the sign. "Are we there yet?" she asked.

"Very funny, princess."

"You know I hate it when you call me princess. I'm fourteen. That's a name for a little kid."

"You act like a little kid sometimes."

The girl frowned at this, turned up the volume on her music player. The resultant thumping was clear even over the air conditioner.

"Careful, Georgia, you'll give yourself tinnitus. What's that you're listening to, anyway?"

"Swing."

"Well, that's an improvement, at least. Last month it was gothic rock. The month before, it was—what was it?"

"Euro-house."

"Euro-house. Can't you settle on a style you like?"

Georgia shrugged. "I'm too intelligent for that."

The difference was evident the moment they reached the bottom of the exit ramp. The road surface changed: instead of the cracked gray concrete of U. S. Highway 95, lined like a reptile's skin by countless repairs, it became a pale, smooth red, with more lanes than the freeway they'd just left. Sculpted lights sloped gracefully over the macadam. For the first time in twenty miles, Warne could see cars on the road ahead. He followed them as the highway began a smooth, even climb from the alkali flats. The signs here were white, with blue letters, and they all seemed to say the same thing: Guest Parking Ahead.

The parking lot, almost empty at this early hour, was mind-numbingly large. Following the arrows, Warne drove past a cluster of oversized recreational vehicles, dwarfed like insects by the expanse of blacktop. He'd snorted in disbelief when someone told him seventy thousand people visited the park each day; now, he was inclined to believe it. In the seat beside him, Georgia was looking around. Despite the practiced air of teenage ennui, she could not completely conceal her eagerness.

Another mile and a half brought them to the front of the lot and a long, low structure with the word 'Embarkation' displayed along its roof in Art Deco letters. There were more cars here, people in shorts and sandals milling about. As he eased up to a tollgate, a parking attendant approached, indicating Warne to lower his window. The man wore a white polo shirt, the stylized logo of a small bird sewn on the left breast.

Warne reached into the folder, pulled out a laminated card. The attendant studied it, then plucked a digital stylus from his belt and examined its screen. After a moment, he handed the passcard back to Warne, motioning him through.

He parked beside a line of yellow trams, then dropped the passcard into his shirt pocket. "Here we are," he said. And then, looking out at the Embarkation building, he paused momentarily, thinking.

"You're not going to try to get back together with Sarah again, are you?"

Startled by the question, Warne looked over. Georgia returned his gaze.

It was remarkable, really, the way she could read his mind sometimes. Maybe it was the amount of time they spent together, the degree they had come to rely on each other in recent years. But whatever the case, it could be very annoying. Especially when she chose only to speculate on his more sensitive thoughts.

The girl lowered her headphones. "Dad, don't do it. She's a real ball-buster."

"Watch your mouth, Georgia." He pulled a small white envelope from the folder. "You know, I don't think there's a woman on earth that would pass muster with you. You want me to stay a widower the rest of my life?"

He said this with a little more force than he'd intended. Georgia's only response was to roll her eyes and replace the headphones on her head.

Andrew Warne loved Georgia intensely, almost painfully. Yet he'd never anticipated how difficult it would be to navigate the world, to raise a daughter, all by himself. Sometimes he wondered if he was making a royal mess of the job. It was at times like this that he missed Charlotte most acutely. She would have known what to do. She always knew just what to do.

He looked at Georgia another moment. Then he sighed, took hold of the door again, and yanked it open.

Instantly, furnace-like air boiled in. Warne slammed the door, waited for Georgia to hoist her backpack onto her shoulders and follow, then hopped over the shimmering tarmac to the Transportation Center.

Inside, it was pleasantly chilly. The Center was spotless and functional, framed in blond wood and brushed metal. Glass-fronted ticket windows stretched in an endless line to the left and right, deserted save for one directly ahead. Another display of the laminated card and they were past and headed down a brightly-lit corridor. In an hour or so, he knew, this space would be jammed with harried parents, squirming kids, chattering tour guides. Now, there was nothing but rows of metal crowd rails and the click of his heels on the pristine floor.

A monorail was already waiting at the loading zone, low-slung and silver, its doors open. Oversized windows curved up both sides, meeting at the transport mechanism that clung to the overhead rail. Warne had never ridden on a suspended monorail before, and he did not relish the prospect. He could see a scattering of riders inside, mostly men and women in business suits. An operator directed them to the frontmost car. It was, as usual, spotless, its sole occupants a heavyset man in the front and a short, bespectacled man in the rear. Though the monorail had not yet left the Center, the heavyset man was looking around busily, his pasty, heavy-browed face a mask of excitement and anticipation.

Warne let Georgia take the window seat, then slid in beside her. Almost before they were seated, a low chime sounded and the doors came noiselessly together. There was a brief lurch, followed by silky acceleration. Welcome to the Utopia monorail, a female voice said from everywhere and nowhere. It was not the usual voice Warne had heard on public address systems: instead, it was rich, sophisticated, with a trace of a British accent. Travel time to the Nexus will be approximately eight minutes and thirty seconds. For your safety and comfort, we ask that you remain in your seats for the duration of the ride.

Suddenly, brilliant light bathed the compartment as the Center fell away behind them. Ahead and above, dual monorail tracks curved gently through the center of a narrow sandstone canyon. Warne glanced down quickly, then almost snatched his feet away in surprise. What he had supposed to be a solid floor was actually a series of glass panels. Below his feet was now an unobstructed drop of perhaps a hundred feet to the rocky canyon floor. He took a deep breath and looked away.

"Cool," Georgia said.

The canyon we are traveling through is geologically very old, the voice went smoothly on. Along its rim, you can see the juniper, sagebrush, and scrub pinon characteristic of the high desert . . .

"Can you believe this?" said a voice in his ear. Turning, Warne saw that—in flagrant defiance of the remain-seated edict—the heavyset man had walked back through the car to take a seat across from them. He wore a painfully orange floral shirt, had bright black eyes, and a smile that seemed too big for his face. Like Warne, he had a small envelope in his hand. "Pepper, Norman Pepper. My God, what a view. And in the first car, too. We'll have a great view of the Nexus. Never been here before, but I've heard it's outstanding. Outstanding. Imagine, buying a whole mountain, or mesa, or whatever you call it, for a theme park! Is this your daughter? Pretty girl you've got there."

"Say thank you, Georgia," Warne said.

"Thank you, Georgia," came a most unconvincing reply.

... On the canyon wall to the right of the train, you can see a series of pictographs. These red-and-white anthropomorphs are the work of the prehistoric inhabitants of this region, the period now known as Basketmaker II, which flourished almost three thousand years ago . . .

"So what's your specialty?" Pepper asked.

"I'm sorry?"

The man shrugged his squat shoulders. "Well, you obviously don't work at the park, 'cause y'all are riding the monorail in. And the park hasn't opened yet, so you're not a visitor. That means you've got to be a consultant or a specialist. Right? So is everybody on the train, I'll bet."

"I'm an—I'm in robotics," Warne replied.

"Robotics?"

"Artificial intelligence."

"Artificial intelligence," came the echo. "Uh huh." He took a breath, opened his mouth for another question.

"What about you?" Warne interjected quickly.

At this the man smiled even more broadly. He put his finger to one side of his nose and winked conspiratorially. "Dendrobium giganteum."

Warne looked at him blankly.

"Cattleya dowiana. You know." The man seemed shocked.

Warne spread his hands. "Sorry."

"Orchids." The man sniffed. "Thought you might have guessed when you heard my name. I'm the exotic botanist who did all the work at the New York Exposition last year, maybe you read about it? Anyway, they want some special hybrids for the atheneum they're building in Atlantis. And they're having some problems with the night-bloomers in Gaslight. Don't like the humidity or something." He spread his hands expansively, knocking both his and Warne's envelopes to the ground. "All expenses paid, first class ticket, nice fat consultancy fee—and it'll look great on my resume, too."

Warne nodded as the man retrieved the fallen envelopes, passed his back. That he could believe. Utopia was supposedly so fanatical about the accuracy of its themed Worlds that scholars were occasionally seen wandering around, slack-jawed, taking notes. Georgia was gazing around at the canyon, paying no attention to Pepper.

...The twenty square miles owned here by Utopia is rich in natural resources and beauty, including two springs and a catchment basin . . .

Pepper glanced over his shoulder. "How about you?"

Warne had almost forgotten the slightly-built man with glasses sitting behind them. The man blinked back, as if considering the question. "Smythe," he said. "Pyro."

"Pyrotechnics? You mean, like fireworks?"

The man smoothed his fingers over the tiny toothbrush moustache that grew in the shadow of his nose. "I design the special shows, like the recent six-month celebration. Troubleshooting, too. Some of the late-show indoor chrysanthemums are launching too high, breaking panes of glass in the dome."

"Can't have that," Pepper said.

"And in the Griffin Tower show, guests are complaining the maroons at the end are too loud." The man fell silent abruptly, shrugged, turned his head to look out the window.

Warne shifted his own gaze to the passing russet-colored cliffs, then back to the interior of the monorail. Something had been bothering him, and he suddenly realized what it was. He turned to Pepper. "Where are all the characters, the action figures, Oberon, Morpheus, Pendragon? I haven't seen so much as a decal."

"Oh, they're around, all right—in the shops and some of the children's attractions. But you won't see any guys in rodent suits walking around. Nightingale was very particular about that, they say. Very concerned about the purity of the experience. That's why all this—" he waved a pudgy hand—"the Transportation Center, the monorail, even the Nexus—is so understated. No commercialization. Makes the actual Worlds that much more real. Or so I've heard." He turned to the quiet man behind them. "Right?"

Smythe nodded.

Pepper leaned a bit closer to Warne. "Never thought too much of Nightingale's stuff myself. Those Blackstone Chronicles animated movies, based on his old magic act? Too dark. But my kids are crazy for it. And they watch his cartoons every week, like clockwork. They almost killed me when they heard I was coming here, and they couldn't tag along." Pepper chuckled, rubbing his hands together. Warne had read books where people rubbed their hands in anticipation, but he wasn't sure he'd ever actually seen anybody do it.

"My daughter would have killed me if I didn't bring her," he replied. "Ouch!" he yelped as Georgia kicked him beneath the seat.

There was a brief silence. Warne rubbed his calf.

"So, you think it's true they've got a nuclear reactor buried underneath the park?" Pepper asked.

"Huh?"

"That's the rumor. I mean, just imagine the electrical overhead. The place is its own municipality, for heaven's sake. Think of the juice it must take to keep the whole place going, air conditioning, rides, computers. I asked one of the hosts back in the Center, and she said they used hydro-electric power. Hydro-electric! In the middle of the desert! I...hey, look—there it is!"

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