The Kraken Project is the first solo effort by Douglas Preston. He takes the Frankenstein archetype and updates it for the information age with several twists. The result is proof that he can deliver a suspenseful and ripping yarn all by himself.
The story centers around Dorothy, a program designed to navigate a probe raft on the Kraken Mare, the largest ocean on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Since it needs to think beyond its creators for unforeseen circumstances, designer Melissa Shepard is brought in to give it artificial intelligence to think on its own. Melissa does too good of a job. Realizing it is being sent on a suicide mission, Dorothy escapes, causing the deaths of several NASA workers.
Many end up chasing after Dorothy. Melissa teams up with a government operative, Wyman Ford, trying to stop her. Parker Lansing, an unscrupulous Wall Street trader who operates in the kind of high frequency trading demonized in Michael Lewis’s current non-fiction book Flash Boys,wants to capture the program for his Wall Street slave. To flee all of them, Dorothy befriends Jacob, a suicidal teen.
It is Preston’s take on Dorothy that really brings the book to life. She begins childlike with threats and tantrums. She suffers more from confusion by her intake of information than an initial mastery of it. Her interpretation of religion is interesting and entertaining. She matures more through human contact. This is brought out fully through her interactions with Jacob, which takes the Frankenstein’s monster-child passage from a different angle.
The Kraken Project hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until it’s thought provoking ending. Douglas never forgets the need of pace and character empathy for engaging a reader. He takes a classic premise and proves that it is more timely than ever.
Douglas Preston speaks about and signs The Kraken Project here at BookPeople this Saturday, May 24 at 4pm. If you can’t make it but would like a signed copy, you can order a signed, personalized book via bookpeople.com.