Fiction Reviews


(1999) Philip Kerr, pub, 4.99, pbk, pp. ISBN

There has always been this strange area where thrillers and SF overlap. It's hardly surprising when you consider that one of the goals of both genres is to entertain.

Philip Kerr is, so I'm led to believe, a highly successful thriller writer; but with Gridiron he has moved into Michael Crichton's territory.

The plot of Gridiron is fairly simple. Ray Richardson is one of the world's leading architects. His company is hired by a Chinese corporation to build them a new HQ in Los Angeles. Using all the latest technology, Richardson creates a smart building. The central computer runs everything and handles all contacts with the outside world. This building does everything - even the toilets are smart, checking urine for signs of illness or drug abuse.

During some major reprogramming a Doom-like computer game is accidentally incorporated inside the computer's main neural net. Unable to distinguish the game from reality it starts to play...

Despite my initial reservations this book was actually better than I thought it would be. The beginning was slow, but that helped to build up the mystery - a mystery which was totally ruined by a quote on the back cover.

The characterisation was pretty much the old funny hats scenario. One character was nasty, one a drunk, another a wise-cracker: but in the end it didn't really matter. The building itself was the real star of this book. The way it killed the victims was interesting, but the thing I liked most about was that I couldn't tell which characters were going to die and which ones survive. Right up until the last couple of pages there was still doubt in my mind.

Overall: enjoyable. A beach read, as Tony would say.

Jason Jarvis

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