Saturday, December 11, 2010

68. The Grid by Philip Kerr

Another nice little one dollar find at Chainon, the thrift store near my house. I never would have bought this book had I not gone to Amsterdam and seen two of the three of Philip Kerr's Berlin trilogy and had them strongly recommended to me by the knowledgeable bookseller. Sadly, it was books two and three and I didn't want to have them without the first. Now I really think I should have picked them up. They were the Fontana ones with really cool covers and now I'm not sure they are going to be easy to find at all. In any case, it put Philip Kerr's name on my list and pointed my eye to this otherwise bland bestseller cover.

Happily, the story is about a super-modern building in downtown L.A., whose central computer system malfunctions and starts killing everybody inside. It's basically Demon Seed II: The Office Tower. A great premise and made doubly entertaining because Kerr creates a super-hateful antagonist in the form of the egomaniacal architect (and his undeservingly promoted to designer vapid wife). They are everything that is wrong with fashion, success, business, the media, your boss and Ayn Rand all wrapped up in one package that you can't wait for the computer to just house.

Overall, this is a solid, entertaining and forward-moving book. It's no great work of art. In the beginning, the long cast of characters makes you feel like you are watching one of those classic '70s disaster movies and the depiction of the computer's motivations and perspectives is a bit simplistic and off. It's language is too inconsistent and rings false, bringing you out of the fiction (geek aside: Kerr has no real understanding of how computers work at their base, but that's not really a problem for the book). On the flip side, near the end, he takes the concept of the awakened system and pushes it to a pretty cool extreme, that I quite appreciated.

This would make a great movie, basically building as serial killer. So all in all, a fun read and shows that Kerr is competent. I look forward to reading his less lofty Berlin trilogy, which is about a detective in Nazi germany.

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