Preston’s latest solo novel (he’s mostly known as one half of the Preston-Child team who write the Special Agent Pendergast series) takes a wildly implausible premise and turns it into a very entertaining thriller. The Kraken Project is a NASA initiative to send a probe to Titan, a large moon of Saturn. Because of the distance involved, real-time control of the probe is impossible, so NASA decides to make the probe autonomous via cutting-edge artificial-intelligence software. But the software, called Dorothy, malfunctions and escapes into the Internet, where it plans a reign of terror that begins with revenge against its creator and will end with the annihilation of humankind itself. Dorothy’s creator goes on the run; Wyman Ford, ex-CIA agent and star of a few previous novels, is tasked by the president to find the woman (who, most everyone suspects, deliberately unleashed Dorothy). Whether or not you buy the premise of sentient software roaming the Internet, you won’t be able to deny that this is an exciting story. Preston sells the premise by sheer force of will: his characters are so compelling, his storytelling so persuasive, that we buy it all completely, at least as long as we’re inside the book. Bravo.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, April 2014.