Not So Dead
I have to be honest: hard sci-fi isn’t something I often delve into. I like it well enough, but sometimes it feels like the author is more interested in showing off how well he knows certain scientific theories than in telling a compelling story. This is, fortunately, not the case in Not So Dead. While there is strong science behind the story (with helpful links in the Author’s Notes at the end of the book), the plot itself is able to stand on its own merits. I was sucked into the story from page one, and it wouldn’t let me go until the epilogue.
Sam Sunborn has come up with a brilliant idea: what if it were possible to create a digital memorial for people? This isn’t the sort of digital memorial you’re probably thinking of, a website set up by survivors to remember someone they loved who has passed. This sort of memorial would be set up by the person before their death, so that they could leave messages for their loved ones. Said loved ones could also upload pictures and videos as their way of remembering. It sounds pretty straightforward so far, but then Sam meets Frank Einstein, a neuroscientist who has been working on digitizing thoughts and memories. This is where the sci-fi starts: Frank and Sam team up to upload people’s consciousness onto the Internet, creating virtual immortality.
On its own, this would make for a pretty solid short story, perhaps with some commentary on the mind-body connection and whether we can be defined solely by our thoughts. Charles Levin turns it into a thriller by adding a proper, timely antagonist: a terrorist named Ahmed LaSalam who is intent on bringing America to its knees. He crosses paths with Sam and his team, who soon find themselves in a race against time to stop him.
Not So Dead is the perfect thriller for the twenty-first century. It takes technology we already have and pushes it just far enough that you start to wonder “what if,” without going so far that it becomes entirely unbelievable. The action is fast-paced and exciting, and the hero and villain are set up in a perfectly matched game of cat-and-mouse that left me guessing all the way through. If you’re looking for a thriller with a solid grounding in computer science and modern politics, then Not So Dead is exactly what you need to read next.
Munn Avenue Press