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Originally published Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:04 AM

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Review: `Extinction' is chilling thriller

"Extinction" (Thomas Dunne Books), by Mark Alpert

Associated Press

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"Extinction" (Thomas Dunne Books), by Mark Alpert

A Chinese experiment involving the use of political prisoners and a supercomputer goes horribly wrong in Mark Alpert's chilling thriller, "Extinction."

Alpert spins a variant of the Frankenstein monster mythos with the terrifying capabilities of current technology. A computer named Supreme Harmony is linked to the lobotomized minds of test subjects and begins to become self-aware. The test subjects begin to think with one mind, and Supreme Harmony's first task is to insure its survival by eliminating any and all threats.

Jim Pierce specializes in designing high-tech prosthetics for wounded veterans. A man arrives at his home and demands to know the whereabouts of Pierce's daughter, Layla. She's a hacker, and she's accidentally downloaded material that reveals Supreme Harmony's existence and plans. Pierce will do anything to save his daughter, but it's not as simple as finding the bad guy and stopping him. He has to fight technology, and he must use his wits and cunning while staying away from the modern conveniences the digital age has created.

Alpert does a superb job of balancing the action and the science. He's delivered his best book to date, and comparisons to Michael Crichton are warranted.

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