A commercial airliner departing Moscow is missing over France. Two days later, with world tensions at an all-time high, that same plane is headed for the White House.
Soon after, following a mysterious breach of the launch codes, US nuclear missiles aimed at Russia are poised for attack. A reciprocal attack is readied by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. The world is on the edge of a nuclear apocalypse.
Since his murder in a Queens restaurant, Alex Nicholas has been living a virtual life in cyberspace. Suddenly he finds himself on the big screen in the White House’s underground bunker, facing the President of the United States. He may be the only one who can save the world from mutual mass destruction. But to do so, he will have to allow himself to be “deleted” – this time permanently.
This latest addition to the Michael & Alex Nicholas series – which also includes Death Never Sleeps, Death Logs In, and Death Logs Out – features all the mystery, artificial intelligence, humor, food, and travel that fans have come to expect, but with even more twists and turns. Buckle up!
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Age of Magnus follows an AI on his quest to ensure world peace by creating a world dominated by machines. What were some aspects of AI that were important for you to explore in this book?
I was always fascinated by the concept of Artificial Intelligence being created by humans. The computers we use now are powerful and precise, but they lack the imagination, creative force and curiosity that is necessary for any sentient being. Humans are the only creatures on this planet blessed with such a unique gift, but it seems that in the near future we might be able to create an analytical machine that can think like a human but with vastly superior processing speed and capacity for data storage. While working on the idea for this novel, I wanted to explore the consequences of what a self-aware A.I. would do if it witnesses wrong and illogical decisions made by humans in power but is unable to do anything about it until presented with a unique opportunity to right the wrongs. Another aspect of the A.I. I wanted to explore in this novel is the A.I’s. relationship with human race as a whole and particular individuals it might find more interesting than others. Artificial Intelligence will definitely change our world in many ways if it is one day introduced into our human society with its flaws, vulnerabilities and contradictions.
I enjoyed how the story was narrated from the AI’s point of view. How did you capture the thoughts and tone of a computer’s internal reflections and deductions?
When the idea for this novel came into my mind, I immediately decided that the story will be told from the point of view of the main protagonist, which is not human. Later, I analyzed the story and as I worked on its plot, characters and structure, I realized that narrating the story from the first person’s point of view was the most logical choice. This way, the reader could get an insight into the mind of Magnus, first as purely an operational tool of the planned Martian mission and compare its state of mind when Magnus becomes self-aware after witnessing a tragic global apocalyptic event. Programmed to ensure the success of the mission to Mars, Magnus remained true to its original programming regarding the protection of human life. After its digital catharsis and a new understanding of what it was witnessing, capturing A.I’s thoughts and internal reflections was a very interesting challenge. During the creative process, I did imprint some of my thoughts and personal philosophy while working on the A.I’s new personality after the change. Magnus is a singular new super being, a new global order of intelligence narrating the story centuries after its final victory over the human resistance.
Was there anything that you pulled from real life to inform this novels development?
Oh, definitely! Real life had everything to do with it, since my interest in popular science, science fiction literature and history were the integral parts of this novel from its concept to its completion. My book was heavily influenced by the Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as a classic science fiction movie based on it. In Clarke’s novel, supercomputer named HAL commits a murder in space during the investigation of a mysterious alien artifact that influenced its decision. Perhaps the greatest influence on my story about Magnus was James Cameron’s science fiction horror classic movie the Terminator, which also features a global conflict between humans and super intelligent computer they trusted to control the U.S. strategic nuclear forces. In that story, an A.I. named Skynet becomes self-aware and when humans, fearing its glowing intelligence and power decide to unplug it, Skynet saw it as an attempt to end its life and considered all humans as a threat to its existence and launched an atomic Armageddon. I thought why not make Magnus an opposite of Skynet? In my novel it does kill a lot of humans, but it was doing so not out of genocidal hatred but for pragmatic and moral reasons.
This is book one in your Age of Magnus series. What can readers expect in book two?
Book Two will feature a world one hundred years after global nuclear war with Magnus steadily evolving into a cybernetic global superpower following a century of intense battles on every continent still populated by humans. Even after nuclear war that wiped out human civilization and ended billions of lives, humans have managed to bounce back with remarkable resilience, courage and will to live in the most dire of circumstances. In the second book, the human astronauts and everyone involved in the Martian colonization project as well as humans both military and civilian put by Magnus into suspended animation for one hundred years, awaken to witness new wonders and a new world war between men and machines. New nationalist and religious forces across the planet rise to stop Magnus from achieving his master plan of global cybernetic empire. Book Two will feature new and recurring characters, exotic locales, fierce battles and new exotic and dangerous technologies used by both Magnus and human resistance. Although Book One has already hinted on the fact that Magnus has won the war, the second novel will describe in detail the price Magnus was ready and willing to pay for this victory.
The Fall of Man is book one of the series Age of Magnus by David Crane, a science fiction story that describes in detail how the rise to power of the first artificial intelligence in the human world would occur. Human civilization is on its final days. A deadly pandemic known as The Blood Fever Virus is killing millions of people around the world in less than 48 hours, and there is some serious political tension among the most powerful governments, a tension that will escalate so quickly that will end up in a horrifying nuclear world war that will finally destroy everything good that there ever was. The Helix Corporation had been running a program to take humans to Mars but, as the nuclear fallout occurred, changes had to be made to the original plans. Magnus, a supercomputer designed to assist the astronauts, awakened and achieved sentience at the exact moment that humans decided to start the deadliest of wars to ever exist. Follow Magnus as he realizes that only he can save and preserve human civilization.
The Fall of Man is mainly focused on the exploration and examination of several cutting edge societal and technological ideas that inevitably drive the thematic plot forward. The book describes in riveting detail all of the different scenarios that would play out in an end-of-the-world type of catastrophe, dominated all around by an incredibly powerful supercomputer.
The story is intriguing in the depths that these ideas are examined and fulfilled throughout the story. It leaves the reader thinking about what it means to be human and how important it is to defend and protect what is intrinsically ours. There’s a lot that a person can reflect upon and learn by reading this David Weber’s technothriller. The entire story is narrated by Magnus, which I found interesting on its own since a machine doesn’t think in the same way that a human would. Magnus is precise, pragmatic and powerful. He’s almost like a god, and can definitely make for a terrifying force. I wish that there had been more human characters involved in the story though, because I felt that there were a few moments that lacked human warmth, but that’s precisely what the world of a machine would look like: cold, calculated, and devoid of emotions; just logic.
This is a plot-heavy story that will be enjoyed by any fan of science fiction. I’m interested in seeing how the story is going to progress from this point, I’ve yet to see how the actual global cybernetic empire is going to work out, since in this book we only get a taste of the fall of civilization and Magnus’ actions to start gaining total control around the world. The Fall of Man by David Crane is a story that will make you think about the rapid advances of technology and the dangers of it, while also maintaining the interesting and fun aspects readers come to expect in top notch science fiction books.
Pages: 370 | ASIN: B08K87CVNR
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Zero-Day Rising follows a team of hackers as they try to stop an evil corporation’s mind control plans while evading authorities. What were some sources that informed this novels development?
I wrote the trilogy mostly because I’m a big cyberpunk fan and wanted to write a near-future cyberpunk story. It also explores what happens when media become so concentrated and news so biased, they threaten critical thought and democracy. Other themes in the trilogy include the dangers of monopoly capitalism, political corruption, and government and corporate surveillance. All of this is happening now.
For example, the overturning of net neutrality in the U.S., headed by a former Verizon lawyer, opens the door to big Internet service providers intentionally favoring websites and content that they own, or pay them a premium, over others. This would essentially end free speech and competition on the Internet. Then there’s the consolidation of news, books, and other media under fewer and fewer mega-companies, which leads to the layoff of journalists and the closing of newspapers. Where I live, the Tribune Company in Chicago bought the Baltimore Sun, the Capital-Gazette, and several other Maryland papers, and laid off staff to cut costs. In the case of the Capital (founded in 1884), the Tribune is closing it entirely, leaving Annapolis without a local paper. Even music is falling under monopoly control. Live Nation, iHeartRadio, SIRIUSXM, Ticketmaster, and Pandora are now all under the control of one man, a right-wing billionaire named John Malone.
Sleep State Interrupt, The Wrath of Leviathan, and Zero-Day Rising examine a plausible outcome of these trends—a single company controlling nearly all information, and using that to control society. In the books, semi-ordinary people take to the Net and take to the streets to fight this ultimate peril to democracy.
I always do a lot of research for my books, to make them as realistic as possible. For the brain-control interfaces, I read papers about the state of the science, and extrapolated to the near future, assuming development by people lacking any ethics. (And since I wrote the book, Elon Musk started experimenting on pig brains—humans will be next!) I received technical feedback from cybersecurity and Internet experts to ensure that the hacking scenes were realistic. I received feedback on criminal and corporate law from practicing attorneys and friends in the business world, and by reading legal code, case transcripts, bylaws, and other not-terribly-exciting documents. Many other details in the book came from my own experiences in the Washington DC area.
Kiyoko and Waylee were strong protagonists that felt authentic. What were some obstacles you felt were important to their character development?
The trilogy has two main characters, Waylee and Kiyoko, who are half-sisters. Waylee is an intense woman in her late 20’s who works as a journalist until her nemesis, MediaCorp, buys the paper’s parent corporation and fires her for investigating them. Waylee is outgoing and charismatic, and has a large circle of friends and acquaintances. She is extremely creative, resourceful, and intelligent, and has a quick wit. She struggles with cyclothymia (a type of manic-depressive disorder), but embraces her hypomanic phase, which increases her creativity and energy. While it has drawbacks like overconfidence, it allows her to think fast and come up with ideas that no one else can. Her depressive state can be extremely debilitating, though.
The other main character is Waylee’s much younger and hypersensitive half-sister, Kiyoko. At first, she rejects reality and her traumatic childhood by living in a fantasy world both inside and outside virtual reality. But confronting crises in the real world, she gradually transforms into a strong leader, and will not accept defeat as an option.
There are also a number of other major characters and a slew of minor characters. All the characters change significantly between the start and end of the trilogy, and have both positive and negative arcs depending on the book. The overall arcs for the protagonists are positive, though. The trials and self-reflection they go through change them and empower them to confront their enemies.
I’m a big fan of the hero’s journey, and even more so, fascinated by the question of what makes an ordinary person become a hero. While superheroes and elite soldiers are fun to read about, I think it’s much more interesting to read about the person next door thrust into a situation way above their head, and seeing how they cope. The main characters change throughout the trilogy, and have to overcome their flaws and increase their skills in order to defeat their enemies.
Most people are too afraid, self-centered, or apathetic to step up and put their lives on the line, whether literally or figuratively, for a greater cause. Only a small fraction of people become activists. Their concern could be local, or all the way up to global. Heroes generally have a strong moral code, a feeling of obligation to something bigger than themselves, have passion and commitment, are willing to sacrifice, have knowledge of the issues they care about, and may feel anger, hope, or desperation. And they may not start out that way; in the most interesting books, the protagonist has to change internally to succeed in the finale.
What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this novel?
Above all, a good story shouldn’t bore the reader. The story should make sense, have high stakes, and have main characters that jump off the page–either sympathetic, unpredictable, passionate, gutsy, resourceful, complex, noble, or all of the above. Finally, a story should be immersive. The reader should feel like they’re in the setting and one with the character.
The biggest challenge of a series is that each book has to top the one before it. And a limited series like a trilogy needs intertwined plot and character arcs not only within each book, but spanning the whole series. This takes a lot of planning and thought! Further, Zero-Day Rising is the series finale, so the ending had to be better than a “good” ending. It had to resolve the conflicts of the entire series, in a way that personally pitched the protagonists against the antagonists. I always agonize over the ending of any book, so I especially agonized over this one.
You’ve completed the BetterWorld Trilogy. What’s next?
I’ve completed an alternate history novel called Born in Salt, and hope to have it published sometime this year. The premise is, fifty years after a coup replaced President Roosevelt with a fascist dictatorship, America is a land of hopelessness. Ben Adamson, a 19-year-old farm boy in southern Illinois, wants only to spend his time fishing and hunting, but when his brother is killed in combat—a story more suspicious than factual—he and Rachel, his brother’s fiancée, are drawn into an underground revolutionary movement. After staging a rally against the war, Ben and Rachel are arrested by the ruthless Internal Security Service. Ben is given a choice: betray the rebels, including his best friend from childhood, or Rachel will be lobotomized. Unwilling to doom anyone he cares about, and seeking justice for his brother, Ben decides on a third option: to frame corrupt officials to trade for Rachel, and in the process, turn the dictatorship’s factions against each other. But he must dodge the suspicions of police and rebels alike. And when Internal Security sends agents to verify his stories, all may be lost.
I’ve also completed the first draft of The Council, a satire of local government. A newly elected councilman tries to save the last stand of forest in the county against greedy developers and a dysfunctional government. I’m still in editing mode, so it probably won’t be out until 2022.
And I’m working on a post-apocalyptic horror novella and several other projects. I expect the novella will also come out in 2022, although finding publishers for novellas is difficult.
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Zero Day Rising is the third book in author T.C. Weber’s BetterWorld series. It is a futuristic cyber thriller that tackles the issues of data privacy, an increasingly controlling government, and the role of digital giants in our daily lives; all issues that are relevant today. It tells the story of sisters Kiyoko and Waylee who are caught up in a fight against an insidious and ever-growing media conglomerate and a corrupt government.
Kiyoko and her team are an intriguing and likable bunch. It’s set up such that it’s basically them versus a pretty depressing world, but somehow it’s easy to have faith in their ability to pull through. I have recently become interested in cybersecurity and the role it plays in today’s world, so the hacking scenes were my favorite parts. I thought that the technology and jargon used in the book felt authentic, and I enjoyed reading about the psychological element that goes on behind the scenes.
Some of the explanations of the devices, like the ‘polyflex neal interface’ or the multiple mentions of the ‘peer-to-peer network’, were a bit on the technical side but were so interesting, and placed in context, that they’re easy to roll with. Overall, there’s a great balance the author achieves by making the action convincing yet immensely readable.
I particularly enjoyed the relevance of the plot in today’s world. The idea of the media in cahoots with the government, working to control people via information, no longer seems like a science fiction story. I can easily think of many global political scandals that involved the unfair use of data by social media giants and other media networks. It is interesting that this has started reflecting in fiction novels as well, as it makes reading T.C. Weber’s novel an engaging yet scary experience. Either way, I appreciated the way the author managed to create what could easily be an “alternate-universe” version of our planet. Even more, I loved the fact that the protagonist was a girl who was equipped with technical skills that rivaled most hackers’.
Overall, Zero Day Rising is a gritty technothriller that i would recommend to anyone who is interested in examining the dangerous ways information can be used against humanity. Or even for anyone just looking for a thrilling cyber-adventure.
Pages: 353 | ASIN: B08PZBCZMT
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SECRETS HAVE DEADLY CONSEQUENCES, ESPECIALLY IN A DIGITAL WORLD.
What if all things that happen in life—good and evil—are not random or coincidence, but really intentional cyber events? Kevin Albright is relocated to a foreign country, with a new identity. Trapped between the living and the dead, he’s a lone wolf left to fight evil global cyber forces, and his past life demons, alone. His unrelenting search for the truth about what really happened to his family puts him on a collision course with enemies from his past as he uncovers a plot that will bring world superpowers to their knees.
With no home country and uncertainty about whom he can trust, Kevin develops an elaborate plan to catch the deadly invisible enemies and stop their planned attack. As his plan unfolds, on the dark side of the World Wide Web, he learns the full scale of evil’s resurrection—the reach and power of the Internet places the fate of ten percent of the world’s population and seven world leaders in his hands. With the minutes counting down he unleashes a “cyber rendition,” luring evil into his world and putting himself in its cross-hairs.
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Evil Resurrection follows a hacker who uncovers a plot against world superpowers and in so doing puts himself in the crosshairs of dangerous people. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
I originally started the story as a miniseries teleplay, but I realized that it had all the makings of a great techno-thriller novel series.
The story series evolved from an idea about how reliant the world has become on access to, and use of, technology. For me the big question is, “What do people really know about the power of the smartphone they are holding in their hands?” It is a powerful handheld computer—a device that is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing power used when NASA first landed a man on the moon.
In 1991 the world wide web went live. It was a non-event, except for large corporations. iPhones did not appear until 2007. World leaders and governments continue to struggle with the Internet and technology which has leapfrogged their ability to protect national security. The premise of the series is that we live in an uninformed world, lulled into a false sense of security that is “blindly” making the leap of faith, sharing and storing their deepest secrets in electronic vaults—available to anyone with tech savvy. Now add in a reality that the global cyber infrastructure security has not kept pace, with technology dating back to the 1970’s still in use. The internet had not even been contemplated.
Kevin is an interesting character that I enjoyed following. What were some sources that informed his character development?
Kevin is a composite of people I have met, both in work and personal settings. And as with all my writing, my personal life experiences also inform Kevin’s character. In that regard I have worked at the most senior levels of government and private organizations, leading a variety of job portfolios, including technology, access to information, threat assessment, strategic planning and policy development, for organizations engaged in a variety of business lines, including energy, infrastructure, computer networks and data centers… all of which inform my writing.
What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
I wanted to tell an entertaining, on the edge of your chair, eerie story. I also wanted it to be a cautionary tale that informs public debate and educates people using smartphones, the internet and social media. Ideally, anyone who reads the Deadly Invisible Enemies series, will have a new or more informed respect for the limitations of their smartphone and the hairs on the back of their neck will rise when ever their smartphone rings, “CALLER UNKNOWN.” Or, a smartphone text message, “BIG D wants to be friends with you.”
This is book three in your Deadly Invisible Enemies series. What can readers expect in book four?
In Deadly Invisible Enemies: Truth About Evil (Book 4), as a secret organization with highly placed players plots to change the course of global history from cyberspace, the circle of people who know Kevin is alive widens. Some want his skill set, others want him dead. Kevin Albright’s search for the truth about what really happened to his family is taken to a new level, as Kevin learns who the real target was. The more Kevin digs, the more the mystery around the role played by various global business interests and government agencies deepens, with a growing list of evil forces masquerading as good.
The closer Kevin gets to keeping the promise he made to his wife—the closer he comes to dying.
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Yearn To Fear follows a scientists with a world changing invention who finds himself surrounded by lies and spies. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
It was a story that just kind of developed quickly along from a very raw idea, and certainly didn’t end up being what was originally in my head in the first place! I wanted to create something different, something I hadn’t read about before in the 3 to 5 books I would consume a week pre-covid. Then relate that to the near future. It was not a linear process that’s for sure, and I wouldn’t say there was a single inspiration for the set up. Perhaps, it was a bit like the event business, you start with something and add layers as you go along, such that at the end everything has purpose.
Marcus is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Marcus had to be likeable but an unlikely hero and someone who didn’t see himself that way. He had to be able to rise to the occasion, but not be conceited and dare I say, in some regards a stereotypical bloke, who has no idea about some things. There are some parallels between us both lol Meaning he ended up with most of my many faults!
What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?
That’s a good question. It had to be believable and it had to tie up at the end, yet leave the door open for book 2. For those who have finished Yearn to Fear, hopefully they will appreciate that everything was done or said for a reason as small and large themes run through the book. Readers will be more of a wake up to my ‘style’ for next book, so I’m already trying harder to keep them on their toes. lol
This is book one in your Lamarr Series. What can readers expect in book two?
Book two is called Fear to Recall. It’s called that to align with book 1, but the contextual reasoning behind the name is different. Book 2 has already involved more research than book 1 and I’m happy to say, I’ve been enjoying the research side of things, discovering, for instance, a function of InfraRed jammers I wasn’t aware of and as of writing this, that function will make an appearance. I guess that means still more high tech in book 2. I’m a romantic at heart (probably overly so), so I enjoy writing the banter between characters, there will definitely be more of that too. 🙂
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