Thursday, October 20, 2005

Jigsaw by Kathleen Nance

A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) is a fascinating subject to me. OK, I admit I'm a little bit of a computer geek. But I also have to admit I absolutely HATED my A.I. class at the UW. I took this class the last quarter of my senior year. It was held at 3:30 in the afternoon (can you say 'naptime') in the basement (no windows) classroom of a brand new building with tiers of cushy seats that swiveled and rocked. As you can guess, I could hardly stay awake. The professor was a brilliant woman but I had spring fever and was extremely anxious to graduate and get the HELL OUT OF THERE. I hated the textbook (must have weighed 15 lbs.), the assignments (written in LISP) and the final class program which I had to demonstrate to the professor (eek). Anyway, I digress.... sorry (just had to rant a bit).

So after that experience, it's surprising to me (and you too probably) that I like this subject. Jigsaw is an excellent title for this fast paced science fiction/romantic suspense about A.I.

Daniel Champlain is an agent for the National Security Agency (NSA) and a computer specialist in cryptography. He is working on a case involving terrorists when he intercepts a message from Lokus, a sort of evil super-hacker, when he comes across a familiar name (Isabella Q). Daniel and Isabella Quintera (Bella) were lovers four years ago. He betrayed her when he exposed her father for falsifying records thereby ruining her career and he hasn't seen her since. Daniel is a dark, intelligent character and I liked the way Nance avoided depicting him as some stereotypical nerd. He heads to Michigan to check on Bella suspecting that she may have something to do with Lokus.

Bella is driving home on extremely icy roads when she is deliberately run off the road by a dark SUV and Daniel rescues her from hypothermia. Because of his past betrayal Bella does not trust him and conceals her AI computer, named 'Fran', that she created from her father's design. She is rightly afraid that Daniel will take Fran away from her for national security reasons. Bella does not want anyone to know about Fran before the Turing Competition where she hopes to redeem her reputation in the eyes of the academic world.

The initial setup of the characters and plot was a bit slow and convoluted but after that ... fasten your seat belts, ladies. The non-stop action kept me on the edge of my seat and I read late into the night because I couldn't put it down. The story was complex, and only a little confusing at times, so you have to pay attention. There were also a couple of good sizzling sex scenes with Bella and Daniel.

I especially enjoyed reading the interactions of h/h with Fran, the A.I. computer with an attitude, and she steals the show in all her scenes. Remember Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey? She was sort of like that only with more personality. Her naivete and humor were well done and she was a great character.

Nance's descriptions of the frigid Northern Michigan weather were so vivid and realistic that, seriously, I had to get out an extra lap blanket and turn up the heat a notch. The computer terminology was not too overwhelming and can be safely ignored if you know nothing about AI or computers. If you like techno thrillers, give this one a try. It was a fun ride and I found it thoroughly entertaining.

My Grade: B


Rosario said...

Ooooh, I want! Good thing I already bought this one a few months ago, so it should be getting here next month in my latest M-Bag!

Renée, have you read Catherine Asaro? She's written two wonderful romances with fascinating AI subplots: The Veiled Web and The Phoenix Code.

Jay said...

Wow, thats a great review Renee!

ReneeW said...

Rosario - I read The Phoenix Code a long time ago and I loved it! (AI sex - right!) I'll have to find The Veiled Web. Thanks!

Jay - Thank you!

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