Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov
Brain Thief (Sci Fi Essential Books)
Mystery and science fiction aren’t easy bedfellows, in great part because sci-fi more often focuses on exploration than on the human relations that are so prevalent in mysteries.
Unfortunately, Alexander Jablokov’s Brain Thief proves this point, with a tale that is both interesting and muddled.
Bernal Haydon-Rumi doesn’t expect a simple visit to his boss Muriel to turn into such a debacle. But when she flees the house in her nightgown and steals a car, he can’t deny that things have gotten a little odd. Then he receives cryptic messages from Muriel, leading him on the trail of an artificial intelligence called Hesketh.
This begins a quest that involves a cryogenic bank, a serial killer who chops off people’s heads, and enigmatic characters from all walks of life. Eventually, Bernal must determine both why he’s on this desperate hunt, and who’s actually leading him. Is it Muriel, or someone – or some thing – else entirely?
Jablokov explores the idea of what happens when artificial intelligence gets out of control, but the overly convoluted plot doesn’t come together until three-quarters of the way through the book. Bernal gets information mainly from talking to other characters, but their conversations are littered with trivial topics and useless wanderings.
Anything that readers are intended to get from these interactions winds up hopelessly tangled.
Additionally, the characters aren’t well developed. Bernal is just some guy running in circles, with a little backstory that doesn’t add much to his personality. And it’s difficult to keep track of the many other minor characters. I kept reading due solely to morbid curiosity, and not even much of that.
Brain Thief has some intriguing ideas, and it should have been quite engaging. As it stands, though, this novel isn’t exciting enough to recommend.
This review originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on April 15, 2010.