3 out of 4 stars
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What does it mean to be human? And is it safe to indulge in the human emotions of love and friendship when you are on a mission to save the planet from a potential disaster? These are the questions confronting Christopher Alexander, an artificial intelligence who shares his body with another artificial intelligence, The Wraith, a fearful creature who wreaks vengeance on violent criminals.
Zeke Whitaker, a soldier who was kidnapped from Earth, held for 20 years while learning advanced technologies, and then returned to his home planet, created both Christopher and The Wraith. Zeke is presumably no longer present in the enhanced body his creations share, but some of the attitudes and opinions of Chris and The Wraith suggest that Zeke may be silently lurking.
During a vacation on Mykonos, Christopher becomes involved with Carmen Rodriguez, a practicing psychologist and mother of Ana, a young teen that Chris saves from drowning. While Ana recovers from her injuries, all three develop a close relationship. Chris learns the value of interpersonal ties and the importance of family. But he is programmed to deny emotions and focus on his mission, which involves designing and building aerospace vehicles using the extraterrestrial technology acquired by his progenitor. He can, however, alter his programming. Striving to resolve the conflict between his mission and his desire to have a more normal human life, Chris switches back and forth between his public persona of highly intelligent, successful industrialist and his evolving character of thoughtful, supportive friend.
I enjoyed the simplicity of Robert M. Leonard's The Alexander Gambit. With only a few main characters, the narrative is able to devote considerable attention to each one. Although this novel clearly falls within the science fiction genre, it is not an action-packed, space adventure. Rather, it is a personal journey that examines many facets of human existence and culture. It challenges the reader to question almost everything about the way we live. The story is engaging, and Chris is sympathetic because we see and understand his struggles.
I did not appreciate The Wraith. Although he narrates only two chapters, in which he recounts in great detail the killing and maiming of criminals that he catches in the act, these chapters don't seem to fit at all well with the rest of the book. However, Christopher does mention several times that The Wraith is essential to the success of Zeke's master plan.
This novel deserves four stars for its intriguing plot, clever use of technology, and excellent character development. It also deserves to lose a point for an excessive number of typos. These errors often required a pause to determine what the author was trying to say. I recommend a more thorough edit. But it is still a great story, even with a mere 3 out of 4 stars.
Readers who appreciate sociological science fiction would enjoy The Alexander Gambit. However, this book is definitely for a mature audience. In addition to copious amounts of profanity, it has explicit sexual content and discussions of sexual preferences.
The Alexander Gambit
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