The Kraken Project
When I first picked up THE KRAKEN PROJECT, I was excited by the prospect of an underwater adventure featuring the legendary sea beast, the Kraken. After reading the first chapter, I found out that the title referred to the Kraken Mare Sea on Saturn's great moon, Titan. I now girded myself for a thrilling outer space quest.
How wrong I was! Master plotter Douglas Preston has always been able to take the worlds of history and science and deftly combine them with the thrills and chills of a tautly plotted action novel. I quickly discovered that he had outdone himself with THE KRAKEN PROJECT as he jumped directly into the realm of artificial intelligence and the imminent danger of unbridled knowledge and power that is left unchecked.
When NASA programmer Melissa Shepherd created the AI algorithm called Dorothy, the intent was to use it as a guiding mechanism for a research vessel that would be dropped into the Kraken Mare on Titan. The topography and make-up of this moon is quite unique and one that man could not inhabit. With the prospect of extraterrestrial life being at our fingertips, Dorothy had the potential of being a revolutionary computer program.
"THE KRAKEN PROJECT delivers high-caliber thrills at every level and demands to be read in a single sitting. The always reliable Douglas Preston continues his mastery..."
However, the simulation goes terribly wrong. Dorothy is a self-modifying AI and able to pick up the potential danger it is being put in by being placed in unchartered territory on Titan. The software backfires, causing an explosion that kills seven people and sends Melissa to the hospital with serious injuries.
While recovering in her hospital room, Melissa logs on to her laptop in an effort to discover what went wrong with her program. She receives an audio message that is quite profane and believes some hacker must have broken into her Skype account. When the accusing voice is done threatening Melissa, she demands to know its identity. The culprit reveals themselves as “Dorothy,” and they quickly escape into the area where they can do the most damage --- the Internet.
The President and several of his leaders get wind of this AI run amok and call in ex-CIA agent Wyman Ford. We have seen Ford several times before in other Preston novels, and even though THE KRAKEN PROJECT is billed as a Wyman Ford thriller, he takes a backseat in this story while several other characters do the heavy lifting.
Dorothy has threatened to do harm to the entire human race. This can be done in many ways --- nuclear bomb, electronic blackout, or bringing down the world financial structure. Her first attempt at the latter of these choices results in a loss of over $400 million for an investment house known as Lansing Partners. Its principal, G. Parker Lansing, instructs his colleague, Mr. Moro, to go after the AI that caused their financial woes. This results in Moro creating a super AI of their own to literally chase down Dorothy throughout the Internet.
As Ford catches up with Melissa, Dorothy continues to explore the Internet. During her electronic journey, she begins to take a more lenient approach towards the human race and also realizes that Lansing has their own superbot searching for her. Dorothy must leave the Internet and hide until Ford and Melissa can sort things out. She chooses the oddest of places to do this --- inside the motherboard of a homemade robot named Charlie, who belongs to a 14-year-old suicidal boy, Jacob Gould.
Lansing has considerable wealth and is able to buy some really bad people to do his bidding. These hired hitmen are on the search for Dorothy, and when they learn that it may be in the possession of Jacob, it will be a race to the finish for all involved to converge and stop the “bad guys” before a young boy loses his life.
THE KRAKEN PROJECT delivers high-caliber thrills at every level and demands to be read in a single sitting. The always reliable Douglas Preston continues his mastery --- whether solo or with his frequent writing partner, Lincoln Child. Most of all, the storyline about an AI allowed to run wild is a creation that is sure to create nightmares. Didn't we learn our lesson with Skynet and the Terminator?
Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 16, 2014