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Charlie Monk

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Working amongst the dreaming spires and calm quadrangles of Oxford University, Tessa Lambert is a beautiful young computer genius who creates the first computer program that actually thinks for itself. Her discover is so momentous that it is immediately subjected to a security blackout by the government. The program itself, however, has other ideas, and escapes over the internet. Using all the terrible powers it has acquired in its new-found freedom, the program sets about destroying Tessa before she can track down and destroy it.

Along the way it hooks up with "Netman", the Californian serial killer who tracks his victims over the web. Together, they begin to dream of powers no one individual has ever before enjoyed...

 Reviews for Mother of God

Kathryn Hughes, Book of the month, Maxim
John Parker, Internet Today
Kircus Reviews

   Book of the month, Maxim, Kathryn Hughes

If you take only one book in your suitcase this summer, make sure it's this one. Ambrose's novel manages to be that rare thing — a slick page-turner which also makes you stop and think. Mother Of God is a novel about technology which turns into a philosophical inquiry. Gorgeous Oxford boffin Tessa Lambert is working on a computer which will reproduce the way humans think. But the problem is this: at what point does the computer start to have a consciousness and, worse still, a will of its own? And what happens if it gets pissed off? These are questions which novelists have been playing around with since the sixties, when the arrival of robots promised a Brave New World.

The nineties equivalent of robots is, of course, the Internet. Ambrose makes good use of its vast scope to link the various bits of his plot. The two main locations are Oxford — all drippy wet fields and bicycles — and LA, where a savage serial killer uses his computer to stalk young female victims. The two worlds collide when FBI Special Agent Kelly comes calling on Tessa to ask her for help tracking down the psycho.

For years, Ambrose was a top Hollywood writer, and it shows. Chapters read like scenes, the dialogue like a script. But unlike Michael Crichton, whose work has the same cinematic quality, Ambrose is a good character man. Particularly impressive is his capacity to get under the skin of Tessa Lambert. While Crichton's female characters are fiat, Tessa is a smart, subtle and shaded personality. Her pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage is handled with an insight and intelligence that snakes through the whole book.

Mother Of God asks the big question — what does it mean to be human? — and folds it up in a plot so twisty and with characters who are so, well, human, that you could almost miss the fact that you are being made to think while simultaneously being entertained.

   Jesus it's good, John Parker, Internet Today
With the plethora of Internet related films on the verge of release, the Net community has developed a healthy level of cynicism when it comes to ‘outsiders' using their pastime in the attempt to titillate an audience. Mother of God, superficially, sounds as though it's as exploitative and cynical as the best of them: there's the brilliant (yet obviously young and attractive) female researcher and the homicidal killer (also a hacker and all-round computer whiz) who releases an artificially intelligent program during one of his hacking sessions.

Yet it's immediately apparent that there's a level of sophistication and a level of knowledge non existent in other books of the genre. The AI program quickly draws power from the resources on the Internet and becomes a fiendish, cantankerous AI program, which ends up aiding and abetting the homicidal killer/hacker in his ghastly - yet strangely amusing - crimes.

It's gripping stuff, one of those "white knuckle ride" books - primarily because as well as providing intellectual stimulation (keeping up with all the technology Ambrose mentions is impossible), you really do care about the book's stars. Ambrose certainly knows how to create believable characters. The FBI agents and the researcher who team up in attempt to hunt down ‘the psycho' are always believable, and their world is so similar to our own (Ambrose even includes the same companies and institutions - MIT and Caltech, for example) that it never fails to convince.

If you can keep up with a plot that twists and turns faster than 0s and 1s race through the mother of all computers, then this book is recommended unreservedly. I would however, recommend reserving the time to read the book in one sitting as once you start, it's damn near impossible to stop. Quite brilliant - let's just hope its conversion to a Hollywood film can be handled intelligently.

   Kircus reviews
If artificial intelligence rivalled the human kind, would it choose to live in, refashion, and protect its own environment in the global electronic web? Would it not become an alien intelligence coexisting (perhaps uneasily) with human intelligence?

These are the musings Ambrose (The Man Who Turned into Himself, 1994) poses in his mindsucking new thriller. Tessa Lambert, a genius working on robot intelligence at Oxford, creates an AI program so strong it can't be differentiated from a human mind when queried by a professor of literature. It even "thinks" about philosophy. Encyclopedic understates this program's range. Meanwhile, off in California, a computer genius and serial killer named Chuck Pierce begins communicating with the program after it attacks Tessa and then runs off into the global electronic net. What to do about her rogue program as it sits somewhere ruminating? If you touch it or threaten it, her Al program will, Tessa is convinced, kill you. Her two closest friends think she may be insane. Her department fears that she's selling her secret program abroad (a suspicion planted by the AI program while manipulating Swiss bank accounts). The Godlike program knows Tessa is its mother and may pose a danger to it. Then, coincidentally, it finds young Hollywood animator Chuck Pierce, the serial killer who stabbed his porno-actress mother as a child and has since been killing her time and time again, murdering young women he locates on the Internet. When he teams up with Tessa's program, which virtually makes Chuck its slave, the two focus their energies on a common goal: Tessa. Can she create a rival program to fight, tame, and humanize her rogue? Will Chuck fly to Oxford? Can she elude two lethal antagonists? Will you be up all night once you start this?

Tops as a thriller, suggesting new terrain for the genre. After all, something must replace the weary plotlines of heroines imperiled by the same old psychos.

   Amazon.com at a glance
Previous thrillers about computers becoming supersmart and running wild have usually fallen flat because of a lack of plausibility and/or humanity. But British writer Ambrose has managed to avoid all the pitfalls in this truly terrifying story of what happens when a serial killer who uses the Internet to stalk his victims meets an amoral artificial intelligence program with a deadly learning curve. Since the murderer started his career with his own mother, the computer program (called Fred) thinks it only logical that he should now help Fred kill Tessa Lambert, the Oxford scientist who gave birth to him. Freud's remark about an angry baby being the most dangerous thing in the world takes on a frightening new dimension, as digital Fred and his human crony evade the best brains of law and science in their determined attempt to erase Tessa.

Tessa Lambert has created the worlds first viable artificial intelligence program that she calls Paul. The project is top secret and so controversial that even her colleagues can't know about it. Tessa should be on top of the world except that Paul has broken out of the lab and onto the Internet and he's making prisoners of the computers that run and record our lives. Worse yet, he's made a friend of serial killer whose every bit as computer literate as Tessa. Now Tessa has two big problems: how to stop Paul and how to stay alive.

Humans create artificial intelligence, but what happens when artificial intelligence gets into the wrong hands? That's exactly what happens in this ingenious spellbinder - and the consequences are murderous. Mother of God is a thriller unlike any other - a chase that takes readers right out onto the cutting edge of technology and storytelling.

Have you asked YOUR computer how it feels today? You may as well start. No
knowing what it may do to you if you irritate it ... David Ambrose has written one of the best books I have read this year. His style is different, and his language intricate yet easy to understand. Throughout the book there is a feeling of intense action taking place, and I think there is little point in describing the incredible twists the plot takes. Be warned though: after reading this book you may very well be tempted to unplug your computer for good...


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