Neurogarden, Bryon Vaughn’s imaginative debut novel, delves into the possible future of AI technology. The theme is a familiar one: corporate impulse to exploit profit and power no matter how questionable the technology versus those who see the moral disadvantage. It reminds me a little of Neuromancer, but with less tech and more of the thriller element.
The CEO of NeuralTech Corporation, Brenna Patrick, has developed the world’s most powerful and accurate facial recognition system. Unsurprisingly, it has attracted collaborative funding from the Department of Defense, but there are illegal company secrets being withheld from the public.
The antagonist, Brenna Patrick, possesses a ruthless ambition and superior intelligence that drives her to succeed no matter the cost, both to herself or those who dare to cross her path. A perfectionist at heart in all things, Brenna possesses a narcissistic streak that ultimately leads to her downfall.
The protagonist, Jenny Marcado, loyally supported by her grad student friend, Leo Marino, inadvertently fall into Brenna's dark web while innocently pitching their business acumen to NeuralTech. Jenny's fearless presentation speaks the truth to power, impressing Brenna and sparking an interest between them that extends beyond professional competence. A fatal attraction develops.
Jenny and Leo are drawn ever deeper into this shadowy corporate web, leading to a thrilling cat and mouse game between those who wish to expose NeuralTech’s secrets and those who want to protect them.
I enjoy the new wave of tech science fiction, exploring the impact of new technology on society. Vaughn’s take on ‘The Garden’ was an interesting and imaginative journey. It took some time to reach the action as it introduced character back stories, at times unnecessarily slowing the pace. That said, the second half of the book quickly gathers momentum. Vaughn’s atmospheric prose soars when it reaches the beating heart of NeuralTech’s technology, ‘The Garden’. The imaginative dreamlike experience is effectively counterbalanced with thriller elements, making for an entertaining and thought-provoking story.
Fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Philip K Dick’s Minority Report should enjoy Neurogarden. 4 Stars
Where can you run when there is no place to hide?
Brenna Patrick is a brilliant technologist specializing in neural-cognitive functions and AI. She has cracked the code to solve one of the most troublesome problems in the field, and turned that into the multi-billion dollar NeuralTech Corporation. Working quietly with the U.S. Department of Defense, NeuralTech is poised to leapfrog the competition with a revolutionary system for tracking people, starting with the world’s most wanted terrorists. But there are only so many terrorists in the world, so who’s next?
When a pair of Columbia graduate students, Jenny and Leo, stumble on the dark secret of NeuralTech’s success, it kicks off a tense game of cat and mouse. As they fight to defeat the powerful forces arrayed against them, nothing less than the fate of humanity hangs in the balance…
NEUROGARDEN is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller, one that will have readers pondering the nature of memory, and of reality, long after they've read the last page.
In a lonely pod on the 77th floor, Jenny floated. The only indication of life was a slow, rhythmic sway as the blue feeding solution swirled through the chamber, pushing through her body and out into the next in the chain. Her eyes closed to the world around her, a world she could no longer sense or interact with in any tangible way. Her body was there, but her mind had joined the others, and despite her ongoing confusion, she was now a resident of The Garden.
Her connection to the others came in ebbs and flows, their memories, their thoughts crashed into her own like waves on a distant, rocky shore, smashing at each other in an indiscernible mashup of sensation. In a moment of clarity, she wrapped her mind around her situation, how she had wrestled to free herself, the needle had plunged into her arm, the slow, sweet descent into slumber. Though the silent lucidity was fleeting, chased away, replaced by another barrage of brainwaves from the others.
Somewhere in the melange, the chaotic furor of a thousand minds, there was a single voice, some kind of controlling singularity. Commanding attention, its words marshalled the disparate collective of thoughts, ever so briefly, into a cohesive direction.
--Welcome to The Garden.
"Who are you? Where is this place? Why am I here?"
--Time for that later. First, you must learn the rules.
About the Author
Ever since reading Douglas Adams back in my formative years, I have had an interesting relationship with humor, science fiction, and technology. My first computer was a TI-99/4A, so yeah, I’m old, but only until scientists have cracked the code on transplanting our brains into shiny new vessels. My body may be showing signs of wear, but I’m keeping my brain tight.
When I am not dreaming of far off worlds and writing, I am living a semi-normal life working in New York City, and watching movies with my wife and her spastic cat, Moss.
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