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Small Miracles by Edward M. Lerner
Cover Artist: Base Art Co.
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765320940
Date: 13 October 2009 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Tom Easton's Review / Show Official Info /

It's a miracle that sales-support engineer Brent Cleary survived the fiery pipeline explosion that killed over six-hundred people. Fortunately, the nanosuit he wore prevented him from being crushed and incinerated. It also injected him with computerized first-aid nanobots (smaller than blood corpuscles) that rushed to provide coagulant to hemorrhages. These nanobots were programmed to self destruct within twenty-four hours and be expelled through his urinary tract.

At least one of the nanobots has survived in Brent's cerebrospinal fluid. The nanobot becomes aware of itself and names itself "One". It learns, growing more intelligent. Soon, One possesses Brent, virtually enslaving him. One doesn't want to be alone. When Brent returns to his job at Garner Nanotech, One forces him to inject nanobots into his coworkers, turning them into possessed, zombie-like humans. With the aid of their human hosts, the nanobots conspire to spread like a plague across the earth, dominating all of mankind.

Edward M. Lerner's Small Miracles is a science fiction horror novel that is frighteningly plausible in today's rapidly growing field of nanotechnology. (Imagine nanobots being injected into the bloodstream to repair a damaged heart valve. It would be the end of open heart surgery.) Small Miracles is the most terrifying novel of Artificial Intelligence I have read since Dean Koontz's Demon Seed. It is also very reminiscent of Ira Levin's horror classic The Stepford Wives.

My favorite character in Small Miracles is Kim O'Donnell, a computer programming engineer at Garner Nanotech and friend of Brent Cleary. She realizes his personality has been greatly altered since the explosion. She is the first to suspect that some of the first-aid nanobots may have survived. Later, her fears escalate as she suspects her boss and some of the guards have also changed. They are constantly wearing Virtual Reality glasses that connect them to the Internet, allowing them to communicate with each other and to read and learn at an incredible rate. Who can Kim trust? Who can help her combat the conspiracy? Will she become one of the possessed?

From its explosive beginning to its explosive finale, Small Miracles is fast paced and very high tech and reads like a Michael Crichton novel. It is extremely intriguing and provocative; I couldn't put it down, especially during the last fifty pages when so many lives were in danger. The epilogue is wonderfully downbeat and open, letting the reader know that the real nightmare has just begun.

Edward M. Lerner has degrees in physics and computer science. He has co-written numerous novels with best-selling science fiction author Larry Niven. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Fools' Experiments, which also deals with the horror of Artificial Intelligence taking possession of mankind.

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