Chris Atack

Baen Books / 384 pages / June 1997

ISBN: 0671877860

Taking an informal survey of recent science fiction, fantasy, and more mainstream novels, it appears almost unanimous that our world and the civilisations on it are headed downhill fast. The turn of the century may be just the beginning of the end for us. Violence, pollution, financial decline, overcrowding, and a host of seemingly insurmountable problems will wipe out life on Earth, if not take the Earth with it. At least, there are some people who are willing to fight to save what is left. In upper Canada, Project: Maldon is the focus of one such group.

The Skellig Michael Institute is an organisation committed to preventing the final collapse. If anyone can do it the Institute seems the most likely choice; they have bottomless resources, the best-trained personnel ever gathered, and the guidance of the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence. With the computer brain of “Helen” to guide them, and a single-minded purpose pounded into them, certainly the Institute is the most likely to succeed in this impossible assignment. That is, if everyone at the Institute has the same goal in mind.

Edward Wolfe, director of Project: Maldon, isn’t so sure anymore that Helen has the same measure of success in mind. In fact, Wolfe is convinced the AI has gone rogue. How can he rely on the complex calculations which guide the group’s actions when he cannot trust the source? And, who will believe him if he voices his fears?

Atack has created a future where fear is the healthiest reaction to everyday life. Canada is a divided country. Upper Canada resembles a war zone. The enemy, unfortunately, could change at any given time. In an era where the rich are behind barricades, religious fanatics turn to violence, and the poor are only a step from barbarism, it’s more than your life is worth trust anyone.

Project: Maldon bites you in the hinder regions right away and hangs on like a %$@*& pit bull. The action moves with the force of the best suspense or action novels on the market. Wolfe and the characters around him are believable and fully-formed, making their performances that much more visceral. Make no mistake: bad things happen to good people, grisly things that you will find yourself wishing on the villains.

When you can decide who the real villains are.

There is a topic one could spend hours arguing, long after the book is read.

But, there is one reassuring aspect: Edward Wolfe is hero material. He is in power, he’s brilliant, and he’s in a bad situation, but Wolfe is one of the good ones. Sometimes, you have to take your heroes with a lot more dents and rust spots. He’s not perfect, no. Would you trust him with your life? Probably.