Title: The Code
Author: Peter McAllister
Publisher: Bright Communications
Publication date: March 15, 2020
Genre: Science Fiction
One Sentence Summary: Liam and Cletus are brilliant engineers and scientists, but one of their projects, an AI on the Moon, seems to be having technical difficulties that might spell the end of the Earth.
Despite the fact that I hardly ever understand what any science fiction book is saying, I can’t help loving reading them anyways. The Code is yet another I didn’t fully comprehend in terms of the science, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. I did think, though, that all the science took away from any real emotional depth to any of the characters, but it was still a fun, humorous read that flew by a little too fast.
Lots of Science and Tech
Liam, top problem solver for the Global Mining Company (GMC), has a problem. It’s name is Gene and it’s located on the Moon. A highly advanced AI, it’s job is to produce nanobots that will mine the Moon for copper. Everything is working out brilliantly, until it isn’t. At Gene’s current rate, the effects of mining the Moon will be felt by the Earth in 14 weeks.
Tasked with figuring out how to save Earth, Liam and his partner Cletus round up ideas, from changing Gene’s instructions to therapy. With time running out, oh, and someone out to kill Liam for something completely unrelated, Liam is working with people all over the world in a race against time.
Overall, The Code is a fairly simplistic story: save the Earth from a crazy AI. But it was such a fun read. The science and tech bits are worked in fairly heavily, but I’d say most, if not all, of it was easily digestible. I found it to be well explained, though I have to admit my brain just gave up on me about two-thirds of the way through. Luckily, it didn’t impact the reading enjoyment.
There’s quite a bit of science, but also a bit of psychology that was actually enjoyable and amusing, that detracts some from the story. At times, it felt like the book was mostly a vehicle for talking science, but it also relied heavily on there being a story. Fortunately, it was easy to understand. I just wish more story had been padded around it so I didn’t feel so much like I was jumping from science talk to science talk. Honestly, being married to a scientist, I get it, so it also felt like reality.
The story itself was fun and funny. Here’s this corporation with a massive problem on its hands that it has to keep quiet about all while the person in charge of solving the problem is in danger of being killed, so there are a couple of bodyguards following him around everywhere. I do wish the danger had been more present, had more of a role in the story, but I also got the feeling this book was equal parts for science chatter and for a light read.
The Code moves at a rather quick pace. Despite taking place over 14 weeks, time flew. At the same time, I didn’t feel like it was moving too fast. There was the danger looming over their heads that definitely had me flying through the story, and the anxiety over solving it was ever-present.
Overall, a really fun read, though lighter on the story than I would have liked. There were several threads that were only tangentially followed that could have added a great deal more depth to the story and characters, but I did like how the story never lost its focus.
A Whole Load of Scientists
For such a quick read, there are a number of characters. Some of them blended together, but most of them had some fun personalities that made it easier to pick them apart from the others. Their characterizations could have been a little better, a little deeper, but, knowing scientists personally, I thought it nicely highlighted how they typically care more about the science than on the other person’s personality. I do wish their characterizations had been stronger, though, as it would have nicely reminded me Cletus is a black man from the States dealing with racism despite being one of the brightest minds and that Liam is Australian and their boss is British. All these characters came from across the world, but there was little to really capture that. But at least they felt much less robotic than Gene, who was quite a character!
Liam was far and away the main character. He was fun and definitely had a one track kind of mind for his science. His mind was constantly grappling with the problem, but he still had many rather humorous moments. I loved the duality of serious engineer and quirky human being. He seemed to have a song for every situation, which was something of a running theme throughout the book. I do wish his marriage with Ruby had been more fully explored as it sometimes felt like he was single and living alone, but I did like the fact that Liam is bipolar. It actually helped to draw attention to the disorder and paint Liam’s character in a different light that made a lot more sense. Also, he and Ruby have a cat that’s only ever referred to as the cat, but the cat was a really fun character with tons of personality.
World Wide and the Moon
The Code is set all over the world and on the Moon. Since GMC employs people from all over the world, the fact that it is set all over the world is very nicely highlighted by Liam having to be up at all hours of the day and night for meetings taking place in various time zones. Most of the time, the book is set in Australia, of which I only really got a taste of during the football game mentioned, but it’s also set a bit in the States and in London. Like with the characterizations, the setting was more of a surface thing. It was set here and there, but there was little depth to it, making me struggle a bit to remember where the characters were.
The Moon was fun, though. Gene really took control of the Moon and made things quite interesting and complex for the people trying to fix him. I liked the sense of perspective as the characters had to deal with the lunar landscape. The Moon was probably the only place where I had a real sense of place.
A Fun, Humorous Read
While The Code may be a little lacking in depth and a complex story, it makes up for in the humor and the fast pace. It moved so quickly that I continued to be engaged despite the lack of character depth and the simplicity of the story. Really, I wanted to see how they would manage to shut down Gene. The story was a lot of fun. There was a good dose of humor and a heavier dose of science. Again, though, at least most of the science was easy to understand, even though I do wish there had been a bit less. A better balance of story and science would have been nice, but I still can’t help thinking what a fun book this was to read.
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Thank you to Peter McAllister and Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.