If Lincoln Child had stopped there with his idea of the novel "UTOPIA" the book would have been nothing more than an average read. While he did use the idea and often seems to be making homage to the past, he also added a modern day problem in the shape of terrorists. Terrorists that manage to take over the park with none of the guests being wiser in an effort to extort millions of dollars and state of the art technology. Add in a love interest and a couple of other plot goodies and Lincoln Child shows once again while he is so very good in the thriller genre.
Built in a rugged canyon in Nevada, Utopia is a state of the art theme park. Featuring four worlds with a fifth under construction, each depicts a different place and time as realistically as possible while providing thrilling rides for those so inclined. Using the latest in technology, including machine learning where robots learn from their environment and adapt, the park is incredibly successful. But the system is beginning to sporadically break down and when no one on staff can explain why robots and safety systems are malfunctioning, the original designer Dr. Andrew Warne is brought back in to fix the problems.
But Dr. Warne arrives a week early and on the same day that a band of terrorists have infiltrated the park. They are the ones that control the park's highly advanced computer system and prove it by making what they want to malfunction do it when they want to. While nearly all of the 65,000 visitors have no idea anything is a miss, Dr. Warne and a few others know and begin a desperate race against time trying to save the park and lives.
While not on the level with "The Ice Limit" or "Relic" both of which he co-wrote with Douglas Preston, this is an enjoyable novel. It does feature a large cast of characters and as time slips by minute by minute, annoyingly as most disaster style books do, the read drops into various points of view. Not only does it shift between various members of the group trying to stop the catastrophe in the making as well as the various terrorists, it also shifts into the pov of the victims to depict their fun changing into terror. At times it becomes a bit over the top and reminds one of a movie of the week, as their terror does nothing to advance the actual storyline. As a reader, we know bad things are going to happen and will happen and the pov shifts are the equivalent of being beaten over the head with a baseball bat to make the point. Such diversions involving for the most part, incredibly stereotypical characters, is gratuitous at best.
One such diversion does even more damage by creating a storyline hole, as a situation around a family of one of the minor characters is never addressed despite being extensively implied. The character, having received a frantic call from one of his family member's rushes off in a panic. He reappears twenty pages later or so with no explanation as to what happened to his family and while occasionally someone vaguely implies something happened, their fate is unknown and unresolved.
While everything for the main characters are resolved, like the minor characters, they too are stereotypical. But like most thrillers or adventure novels, which this one certainly is, what is lacking in character development is more than made up by intense action featuring sheer chase and adventure. As such, it more than meets expectations for what it is and that makes this one a worthwhile read.
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Despite its remote location in the Nevada desert, the Utopia theme park receives 65,000 visitors daily. They never dream their lives may be in any real danger. However, some of the self-programming robots are becoming erratic, so park administrators quietly bring the robots' brilliant creator from the East Coast to fix the problem before it gets any worse. Dr. Andrew Warne brings his daughter, for he doesn't believe there is anything wrong with his creations. But on the day of their arrival, a mysterious band of ruthless criminals infiltrates not only the park, but its computerized systems. The unknown terrorists appear to control everything, from the simplest robot to the most dangerous ride. And if their demands aren't met, thousands of innocent park-goers will be killed. --Cynthia Ward