Brain Thief

Brain Thief

Book - 2010
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Bernal Haydon-Rumi, executive assistant to a funder of eccentric projects, drops by his boss's house on the way home from a business trip. By the next morning, he's been knocked out, his wealthy socialite boss Muriel has stolen a car and vanished, and the AI designed for planetary exploration that she's been funding turns out to be odder than it should be. In figuring out what's going on, Bernal has to deal with an anti-AI activist toting a handmade electronic arsenal, a local serial killer, a drug dealer with a business problem, a cryonic therapist stalked by past mistakes--and someone who specifically wants Bernal dead.

Brain Thief is a fun, literate speculative fiction adventure, sort of New England cyberpunk noir, set a year or ten from now, somewhere between the Berkshires and Boston, and includes, at no extra charge, a 30-foot-tall fiberglass cowgirl.
Publisher: New York : Tor, 2010, c2009
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780765322005
0765322005
Branch Call Number: SCIENCE FICTION Jablokov
Characteristics: 383 p. ; 22 cm

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kittbuuk Apr 20, 2014

A cyberpunk mystery that never quite gets up to full speed.
Brain Thief takes a good long time to get going. Whether in the mistaken belief that withholding information from the reader makes a book "hip" and "edgy" or because the author didn't quite get the right balance while creating the central mystery, it takes a good 100 to 150 pages to really have any idea what is going on. This may be way too long for many readers but I soldiered on expecting that at some point I would start to get it. The story does eventually become more engaging but I always had a sense that the details were arbitrarily dropped in instead of being either fully explored or actually necessary to the plot or ambiance.
One aspect of note: many of the constellation of characters around our protagonist are women, which is still relatively unusual in this genre. Often in sci-fi the characters who don't have to be female for a particular reason default to a masculine norm but in "Brain Thief" this tradition is neatly avoided. The mad scientist, the sugar daddy, the hard-boiled detective and the mechanic are all women and their "woman-ness" is a natural part of their characters. This is still relatively rare in science fiction so thumbs up to the author for incorporating so many women into the cast of characters.
The novel this could have been always seems to be just at the tip of the author's virtual pen but is never quite fully realized. With that in mind there is a fair amount here to hold the reader's interest with interesting characters, some unique settings and a meaty central concept.

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