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Sunrise Alley by Catherine Asaro
Review by Steve Sawicki
Baen Mass Market  ISBN/ITEM#: 1416520791
Date: 25 July, 2006 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Book Description: When the shipwrecked stranger washed up, nearly drowned, on the beach near research scientist Samantha Bryton's home, she was unaware that he was something more than human: an experiment conducted by Charon, a notorious criminal and practitioner of illegal robotics and android research. The man said his name was Turner Pascal-but Pascal was dead, killed in a car wreck. Charon is experimenting with copying the minds of humans into android brains, implanted in human bodies to escape detection, and plans to make his own army of slaves that will follow his orders without question. Samantha and Turner quickly found themselves on the run across the country, pursued by the most ruthless criminal of the 21st century. In desperation, Samantha decided to seek help from Sunrise Alley, an underground organization of AIs and androids that had gone rogue. But these cybernetic outlaws were rumored to have their own hidden agenda, not necessarily congruent with humanity's welfare, and Samantha prayed that her only hope would not prove a forlorn one. ...

This is the first book in a new series by Asaro. The main character, scientist Samantha Bryton, is a wealthy recluse, living on the northern California coast. One morning, after a storm, she discovers an android washed up on the beach. The android turns out to be the property of Charon, a rogue biomechanic set on world domination, or something close to it. Before she knows it, Bryton is hip deep in trouble, chased by Charon, able to trust no one, and slowly falling in love with an artificial intelligence cased in a biomechanical shell. Before the end Bryton will need the help of her one trusted friend, General Wharington, along with Sunrise Alley, a collection of rogue AIs sequestered somewhere in the Midwest, to best Charon and his collection of robots and androids.

This is a crossover book between SF and romance, although it leans pretty heavily on the SF side of things. That being the case, there's plenty of romance if that's what you're looking for as well as plenty of action if that happens to be what floats your boat. In between there's some philosophical entanglement around exactly what being human means in a society where artificial limbs and body parts are as good, if not better, than the originals. Add in artificial intelligence, and at what point does a human stop being a human and a machine start being one?

Asaro certainly keeps things moving. If there is the occasional lapse for the sake of pacing, or the occasional sidestep for the sake of romance, it's easily forgotten because the story, in its basic form, is so compelling. The characters are interesting, the troubles they must deal with seem appropriate, and the created world is more than plausible. I'm sure Asaro has other plans for this world, if not the characters, so we'll have to wait to see what happens. Regardless, this is a pretty good read.

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