Jake Conary wakes up alone in a resplendent mansion in Tennessee named Patience, with no idea who he is or how he got there. He soon discovers he is the guest of the vastly wealthy and powerful Roger and Maria Burr, and that alarmingly, the year is now 2242, some 223 years since he disappeared riding his horse Yankee over Whiskey Mountain in Wyoming. In the near quarter of a millennium that Jake cannot account for, the world has become a dark and terrifying place, the global population reduced to a mere fraction of what it had been as the result of a period of widespread violence and disorder known as the Troubles. With the help of his hosts, Jake learns that this process has been accelerated by the rapid advancement of 3D printing and Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, many of the staff at Patience are highly developed robots – or Bots – themselves. Such technological development has also allowed the Lazarus process to come into fruition, a mechanism of regeneration that essentially allows humans wealthy enough to afford it to revive themselves when they die. Understandably dizzy with all this information, Jake starts to piece together bits of his past while also discovering more about the Burrs and their status as part of the Chosen, the small group of humans who survived the Troubles. These details, in turn, allow him to piece together his own role in the destiny of humanity, a fate somehow tied to two mysterious organizations known as LEAP and Beagle, and a mind-boggling series of top-secret projects they had been working on before Jake’s disappearance. As the story progresses the timeline jumps back and forth, revealing more details of, and the reasons behind, the grim state of the world Jake has woken up in. A wider supporting cast of characters also appears, each with their own part to play, either helping or hindering Jake as he races to unravel the events that led civilization to this future, and figures out how he can change this destiny.
Rick Strater’s EXISTENTIAL THREAD is built around an intriguing premise but suffers at times from odd pacing and underdeveloped or one-dimensional characters. That feels, in part, due to how much the author has tried to pack into what is a fairly short read. The vast majority of the action for the first half of the book takes place within the confines of Patience, and when the flashbacks and other plot strands come later they can feel rushed as a result. When some of the motives and the malevolence of certain characters are revealed, it feels inadequately justified.
Merging dystopian science fiction with elements of claustrophobic horror, EXISTENTIAL THREAD is a fast-paced, high octane tale that foreshadows the terrifying rise of AI and asks readers to consider the threats such technological breakthroughs could pose to mankind.
~Joseph Sharratt for IndieReader