I get periodic requests from folks for quest blogs celebrating the debut of their novels.  I thought it’d be cool to just go ahead and make a regular feature of it.  I’m calling it Launch Party, because if there’s one thing I love it’s an excuse to have a party.   So one thing the writers have to do is convince me/us why we should attend their party.  First up: long time pal-o-mine, Nate Kenyon.  I’ll let him take over …

DAY_ONE_coverLaunch Party: Day One

Maurice was kind enough to invite me to guest blog on his site, and to be the first in line in a new series about launching the killer thriller (my words, not his).

Some might think writers are excited about every single one of their launches. Not so. Some books you’re just less confident about, or your publisher isn’t giving it a good push, or early reviews are bad. So on this, my launch week, what makes me so excited about my new novel DAY ONE?

Three things: first and foremost, I love the story. DAY ONE is about a journalist with a shady past trying to redeem himself as he goes after what he hopes is a breakthrough profile of a tech visionary. As John Hawke heads into New York, everything with a computer chip in it begins to malfunction. Soon, he’s trapped in a city under attack by an unknown, brilliant and vicious enemy that can be anywhere and everywhere at once.

The bridges and tunnels have been destroyed. Somehow, Hawke must find a way to escape the city and get back to his wife and young son. Their lives depend on it…and so does the rest of the human race.

DAY ONE is a very dark and wild thriller that moves like a bullet. It’s been described as “Cloverfield meets the Terminator,” which is pretty spot on. Red-blooded horror fans who want action are going to love this book.

The second thing that’s gotten me excited is the early feedback. Booklist gave it a starred review and called it “exciting and inventive.” Library Journal called it my “scariest to date.” There’s some great buzz around the novel, and a major producer just picked it up for film.

While researching the novel, I was blown away about what’s going on in the artificial intelligence space. Billions are being thrown at the problem of creating an AI that thinks, learns, acts more human–using quantum computing breakthroughs and neural mapping–even the idea of creating consciousness and what that means is in play. Google, NSA, IBM, and certainly many universities are after it–and Paul Allen just announced his founding of the Allen AI research Institute with a $500 million war chest.

The possibilities and benefits of this kind of system are obvious. But the dangers are very real too. If we create something that can improve itself and learn on its own, what does that mean? If it is self aware, how do we define it? Would it be protected from abuse–have some sort of legal rights? What if something like this “gets loose” from whatever system we put in place to control or contain it, and evolves in such a way that it leaves the capabilities of the human mind far behind–and what if it decides that human beings are expendable?

All this might seem like science fiction. But a lot of researchers say we may be less than 20 years away from such a thing, and we’ve already created an entire ecosystem for it to grow and thrive in the World Wide Web and networked devices. In James Barrat’s excellent OUR FINAL INVENTION, he makes the case that we are quite likely engineering our own extinction–that we are not focused enough on safeguarding such a system, and even if we were, we won’t be able to predict the ways an AI might “escape” its own programming safeguards as it evolves. As Barrat writes, an AI might not hate humans, or even bear us any ill will. But we don’t hate lab mice either, and look what we do to them.

I wrote DAY ONE imagining what might happen if such a system “woke up” and decided to eliminate us. It’s pure entertainment, of course, and I take liberties with the concepts, but there’s a surprising amount of truth in it as well. The problem is that most people won’t believe it. Artificial intelligence has been a rich playground for entertainment for many years (Forbidden Planet, the Terminator movies, The Matrix, and on and on), and that, I think, has lulled the general public to sleep. But there are very real developments in the field and the possibility of an actual breakthrough or catastrophe is looming.

Incidentally, Barrat’s book came out the same day mine did, from the same press (Thomas Dunne/St. Martins). It’s an interesting pairing of a fictional imagining of an AI apocalypse for entertainment purposes, and a nonfiction account of the realities around the occurrence of such an event.

The last thing that has me so excited about DAY ONE? It’s a rich playground for scaring the hell out of people. And that’s what I love to do best.

 

Bio:
Nate Kenyon is the award-winning author of Day One (St. Martins, October 2013), about the day machines become sentient and take over New York. Day One received a starred Booklist review and raves from Library Journal and many others. Kenyon is a three-time Stoker Award Finalist. His other novels include Bloodstone, The Reach, The Bone Factory, and Sparrow Rock. He also writes Diablo III novels for Blizzard Entertainment and Simon and Schuster. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. He lives in the Boston area.