Review: Utopia

Utopia by Lincoln Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great one by Lincoln Child, writing solo. This is the second go around for me, previously having read it about 8 plus years ago. It is a very well-researched, strong thriller in an amusement park, miles outside of Las Vegas, set in a deep chasm, so that visitors approach the front of the park on ground level, and it falls away behind the park to several levels of offices, maintenance etc, . The park is under a large dome, sectioned into four themes – Gaslight, a perfectly recreated Victorian London, complete with Jack the Ripper holograms waving bloody knives and running around, fog, and tea, lots of it. It also “rains” every so often, just for about 90 seconds, a light mist, just enough to keep it cool and damp. It even smells like old London might. The next is Callisto, a bustling spaceport, with tons of fabulous roller coasters and scream rides, along with robots. All the robots are connected to a main frame via a metanet, or AI intelligence device that takes what the robots have “learned” each day, uploads it to the mainframe, and down loads it back to them each morning. The next is Boardwalk, a recreation of a turn-of-the-century boardwalk, like Coney Island, down to the costumes, food and rides – a wooden rollercoaster cleverly disguising the latest in modern roller coaster technology with a steel inner frame. The last is Camelot, a medieval recreation, complete with staged battle scenes and shows, with fire breathing dragons. Specialists are brought in from everywhere, to ensure that the park is perfect – food specialists in history, orchid specialists to tend to the orchids, fireworks guys, and Andrew Warne, who has been summoned by his one time love, now head of the park, Sarah, to look at the metanet, due to some possible bugs. A widower, he brings along his teen daughter Georgia to let her have some fun after what he thinks is a short meeting. But he is told he will have to dismantle the whole metanet, his baby and the vision of the original founder of the park, now dead, Eric Nightingale, who envisioned more of an immersive experience and less on rides, and casinos, and vendors. Warne is appalled, it is his life’s work, and since he is currently floundering , he needs this metanet to work. They start looking at why there have been one-time glitches in various robots, with one major one in a ride that resulted in a broken leg. As they dig deeper they begin to see that the code has been altered, but by whom. Meanwhile, upstairs in the offices, Sarah is being visited by an arrogant man, who says he controls the park, and she must do as he says. As he stages bigger and worse accidents around the park, they must race to save the park and themselves, as they are effectively trapped inside the dome,with a madman and his crew holding them hostage. Taut, well written, and meticulously researched, this is Child at his best.

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