Cover image for Body electric
Title:
Body electric
Author:
Squires, Susan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Dorchester Publishing Co., 2002.
Physical Description:
367 pages ; 17 cm
General Note:
"Leisure books."
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780843950366
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Item Holds
Searching...
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Popular Materials-Science Fiction/Fantasy
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

When Victoria Bernhardt sets out to create something brilliant she succeeds beyond her wildest dreams. With one keystroke her program spirals out of control - and something is born that defies possibility: a being who calls to her. Though the shadows of the past might rise against them, the pair will find a way to have each other.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

The near future, as Squires (The Sacrament) envisions it in this electrifying and sensual sci-fi romance, is a computer-dominated metropolis ruled more by commerce"and a colossal software corporation named Visimorph (read: Microsoft)"than conscience. Vic Barnhardt, a brilliant and troubled computer programmer whos determined to create artificial intelligence (AI), is the novels hip heroine, but her controlling nature and ambiguous sexuality (she dresses and acts like a man in order to fit into the computer world) may alienate readers initially. The story springs to life when Vics AI does. Before long, Vic and Jodie, her all-too-human, male computer program, are on the run from Vics boss, Bob McIntire, the founder of Visimorph. More a caricature than a character, McIntire sells inferior software, charges a bundle for upgrades and believes AI may be the most marketable product since Windows"if he could only get his hands on it. While hiding out, Vic gives Jodie an upgrade of sorts, falls in love with him and, in the process, learns to accept herself. Although some of the books science fictional elements are far-fetched (such as Jodies transformation from code to sentient being), Squiress deft plotting and full-bodied characters make this whirlwind adventure worthwhile. (On sale Aug. 6) Forecast: Its tough to pigeonhole this eclectic work and even more difficult to decide where to shelve it. Hardcore SF readers will be turned off by its romantic overtones and wooly scientific explanations, and conservative romance readers may be too daunted by Squiress futuristic jargon. Still, the books catchy title and seductive cover design (featuring a womans naked back superimposed with computer code) may help it appeal to a younger generation of romance readers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Vic Barnhardt slammed on the brakes of her black BMW. Adrenaline surged through her. She'd almost hit him! The guy in torn denims screamed something she couldn't understand as he thumped on her hood with the wooden handle of his sign. It said, "McIntire Makes Monopoly Money," in childish letters. The metal dented with a thunk that echoed through the roadster over the shouting outside. Behind him a human chain of burly Visimorph security guards bulged as the crowd of protesters surged toward her. Vic leaned on her horn and stabbed at the button that locked the doors. Where did these crazies come from? Hundreds of them, their mouths twisted in anger, shook their signs or their fists. A brown-uniformed guard jerked the guy back by his collar. Vic gunned into the parking garage. The release of PuppetMaster 12.1 was more than a week away. This was getting out of hand. The BMW squealed around a corner and Vic jammed it into a space on the lower floor. She didn't have time for this nonsense. The morning's rain had gummed up Sepulveda Boulevard and made her late for a meeting with her boss, Hugo Walz. Since she hadn't bothered to show for last week's meeting, she'd better at least pretend to toe the line. She swung out of the car and slammed the door. It would be hours before she could begin work on what she really cared about-Jodie. She chafed at that as she heaved her backpack over her plaid flannel shirt, then steadied her breathing before striding across the parking garage, her Doc Martens squeaking against the concrete. The smell of oil and robber hung in the brisk March air. Naming her project after Jodie Foster seemed right. A strong woman who bucked authority to do what she wanted. Vic managed a grin. Yeah. Coming out of the garage into a biting wind, she shielded her eyes against the late afternoon sun. Several protesters ran past her through the narrow alleyway. How did they get past the security guards? Vic swung around to see the chain-link fence at the end of the alley sagging under a wall of people. Her pulse quickened. This wasn't funny. The shouts turned triumphant as the fence broke. She was overwhelmed in seconds, and any hope of a sprint to the employee entrance was dashed. Vic struggled against the tide of jeans and flowered dresses. Elbows and knees and protest signs all prodded her. She yelped in pain and shoved back. These weren't people anymore, but screeching bits of hair and flesh. "Let me through!" she shouted pointlessly. Hers was just another voice in the cacophony of screams. A flash of white helmet and black chin strap announced the arrival of the police, but that only intensified the surge around her. Vic couldn't breathe. Pain shot through her as a placard connected with her head. The crowd swirled in sickening streams of color. Her knees hit the pavement. Someone stepped on her and someone else. Visions of soccer fans trampling people to death flashed through Vic's brain. A grip on her arm heaved her upright as though she were being pulled out of quicksand. "You all right?" a bass voice shouted over the tumult. She found herself clutched against a hard body wearing jeans and a plaid shirt not much different from her own. She looked up. Maybe it was the blow to her head, but the crowd seemed distant even as it jostled them. She saw intense blue-green eyes with a sad down-slant. A week's beard hid the bottom half of her savior's face. One blunt hand raked through thick hair worn too long, and pushed it from his eyes. She'd seen pictures: John Reston, nemesis of Visimorph. "Hold on," he yelled and slung her across his hip like a child. She clung to shoulders she could feel were massive underneath the plaid flannel, her breasts pressed to his barrel chest. He waded through the chaos, clearing a path with his other arm. He didn't seem to care whose head he cracked. Police and demonstrators alike gave way. Vic felt his body under hers, brawny muscles, unrelentingly male. Jeez, Vic, she commanded herself, get a grip. When they were clear of the crowd, Reston continued down the alleyway at a trot, oblivious to her breathless squirming. "Put me down," Vic managed. He turned the corner and set her on a loading dock with an unceremonious thunk. Somehow he ended up standing between her parted thighs. Both he and she panted. The screaming, the whining of the sirens, seemed a long way off. She meant to thank him. After all, he had probably saved her life. But wasn't he responsible, too? He was the driving force behind these protests. The way he had just hauled her around like so much luggage-and here he stood staring at her as if she were some kind of circus animal. "Maniac! What gives you the right to stage attacks on people just trying to go to work?" "Sorry," he muttered, his expression rueful. "This got out of hand." "Out of hand?" Her gazed flicked over him. He looked like some Greenpeace geek with that long hair. His jeans were torn at the knee. Then there were those eyes. And the mouth. What kind of lips hid under that beard? She couldn't quite see. His undershirt peeked from his flannel at the neck. It was the kind of shirt that would leave those powerful arms bare. Something in her wondered what he looked like without the flannel. Vic pushed that something down. "You ... you people are crazy!" "I might say the same," he growled. "You're helping Bob McIntire hold the world's computers for ransom. Every time he issues an upgrade, everybody has to repurchase something they already own just to function in society. Don't you have a conscience?" "And you brought the Justice Department down on him last year for antitrust. Don't you remember what happened to the economy when they broke up Microsoft?" "And now Visimorph is worse. A good economy doesn't make it okay." They glared at each other. Vic parted the gel that slicked back her short brown hair and fingered the lump beneath that was beginning to make her head ache. "You're bleeding." Reston touched her jaw to turn her head with callused fingers. Vic shuddered away as though she'd been shocked by a taser. "I'm fine." "You're not fine." He slid a blunt, strong hand behind her neck and touched her chin again. Vic's hands trembled. Must be the adrenaline wearing off. "You could use a stitch or two and a whiskey chaser for some Advil." All Vic could do was stare at him, maybe because he was way too close. Did he have to be standing between her knees, for Christ's sake? And why didn't he move his hand off her neck? "Don't get hostile. I'm not asking for a date." Unexpectedly, he grinned. It made his eyes crinkle up as if they'd never been sad. As he pulled his hand away, he came up with the little queue of longer hair she kept tucked carefully under her collar when she was at Visimorph. "What's this?" he asked, smiling. "You hiding some shred of femininity here?" Vic slapped his hand away, anger rising in her throat. "What the hell do you know?" He raised both hands in surrender. "Hey, what could I tell a Visimorph clone?" Vic was outraged. "I'm not!" If there was one thing she wasn't, it was a Visimorph clone. "No?" He lifted his chin. She didn't owe this guy any explanations. So, why did she want to explain? She examined those seriously blue-green eyes. It was none of his business that McIntire had bailed her out of jail for hacking so she could make Visimorph's security systems impregnable against hackers just like herself. One misstep and she would be busted on a parole violation. A half step up from slave labor. It wouldn't matter to some fanatic like John Reston. She glanced away, then back. A muscle worked in Reston's jaw. Did his eyes flash with disappointment? He didn't say a word, just put his hands around her waist and lifted her off the loading dock. She couldn't help but grasp his forearms where the sleeves were rolled to his elbow. The light hairs over the cords of heavy muscle made her feel fluttery. "You'd better get round to the front door," he muttered, "if you want to go to work so badly." She pulled away and stalked around the loading dock without looking back. Arrogant bastard! When she was sure he couldn't see her, she peeked over the platform. He was looking at the spot where she had disappeared. After a moment, he shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and turned back toward the melee around the corner. The roar of the crowd washed over her again. A bullhorn demanded something insistently. She chewed her lip and took two slow breaths to calm down. There was no fooling herself about her reaction to this guy. How could she have so little control? She jerked her thoughts back to Jodie and started the long trek around the huge Visimorph campus to the visitors entrance. The glowing silver symbols on the monitor burned in the darkness like the white light you walk toward after your heart stops beating. But tonight they didn't seem like salvation at all. Music pounded through her earphones. Instead of helping her concentrate, the syncopated rhythms and whining keyboards of the Shards just scraped her nerves. Vic knew she was close, either to a breakthrough or a breakdown. She scanned the code, her eyes scratchy and watering. She was the creator of Cerberus, the security program that defended Visimorph against the world. How come she couldn't link a few borrowed neural nets? Without robust links, all the power in the world wouldn't give Jodie the feel of sentience. Vic threw herself back in her ergonomically correct chair and ran her hands over her gelled hair. The lump was still there. She'd skipped the stitches and the whiskey, but it had taken maximum doses of Advil to tone down the headache. What a day! A riot, a clunk on the head. Then that Reston guy had thrown her all off balance. Not just his challenge about working with Visimorph. There was a reason she never allowed herself to get very attracted to men. It was distracting. She liked programs better: They operated on rules you could understand. The smell of stale coffee and recycled air mingled with the vague chemical odor from her printer. Vic tapped her headset, clicking over to a soothing track of Organic R&B and took a swig of Diet Coke from the half-full can standing among several empties. At least she'd had a great excuse for being late to Hugo's meeting. She stood to stretch and surveyed the dim cubicles receding into the darkness beyond her own half walls. Everyone had gone. "Must be Friday," she muttered. Was it? She glanced at her computer screen. Twelve after midnight. Not Friday at all, but Saturday. She slumped into her chair and reached for her track pad. Forget John Reston. Some environmental crazy was not her type. Jodie was waiting to be born. Vic pushed her finger around. The cursor on the screen didn't move. "If this thing freezes up on me ..." Her threat collapsed. What would she do? Despair or something. Wait a minute. The screen shimmered. The silver-blue figures trembled from top to bottom. What was going on here? Vic peered closer as they stabilized. That section of code ... the groupings were different, weren't they? And there! Something was changing her work! A virus? Bile surged up from her stomach along with the panic. She couldn't lose code now! She lunged for the Utilities function to scan for a virus, but her cursor was still frozen. "God damn it!" she whispered. Somebody was getting into her code. She stood and scanned the dim recesses of the cube farm. Carpeted half walls outlined a maze for the Visimorph rats. Whoever it was, was working in the dark. She spun out of her cube and stalked down the corridor, peering into the workstations. Code glowed on a screen from Rick Chong's cube. He was still here. "Hey, Chong, what's the idea?" Chong's silhouette turned in the semidarkness. "And your meaning is ...?" "I mean, are you messing with my code?" She peered over his shoulder. Code from the Communicator upgrade her team was working gleamed in tidy lines. She took a breath. The blood pounding in her neck began to slow. Chong flipped on his desk light to get a better look at her. "You finally lost it?" Vic cleared her throat. "I'm having trouble with some ... changes I'm trying to make." "Aren't we all?" He gestured at the screen. "What crappy programming on the Communicator! How are we supposed to upgrade this bletcherous shit?" "We're supposed to make the software elegant. You know, `The Only Link You'll Ever Need to the Outside World.'" She quoted Sunters phone and Internet device's ad campaign. "That's why we're redoing the operating system and not someone else. 'Cause we're the best." Chong shook his head in disgust. "Corporate bull. And only that company would have named these things for that Star Trek device deal. They're such geeks." As if that were the last straw. "Long for your samurai days, hacking for fun instead of for Corporate America?" she asked. He grinned. "Don't you?" She suppressed most of a smile. "Sometimes." Her eyes slid over him. His thick black hair was pulled into a ponytail maybe six inches long. He had the sleek muscles of a martial artist. Not the body type she liked most. That would be more like the infamous Mr. Reston. Way dangerous. But Chong was just the type she usually chose, for safety's sake. Smooth and lean. A blue-and-green flourish peeked from under one sleeve of his black t-shirt as it stretched around his biceps. A dragon? A vine? Why had she never noticed it? She scanned his cube. A mahogany stick, polished and rounded, poked out of a gym bag. He did do martial arts. She'd never asked him about himself, She'd hired him because he'd been a hacker, though he hadn't actually been in jail, so he wasn't on the slave labor program like she was. They were outsiders, both of them. Maybe she should know more about him, starting with whether that was a dragon or a vine. Down, Vic. This was just an echo of her encounter with John Reston. She was way out of control. Chong was her employee. Never dip in the company pool. Chong would probably be shocked if she came on to him. She was acutely conscious of her asexual attire, her short hair, her longer queue of hair hidden away. New employees often mistook her for a guy until they saw her face. Her look was necessary to get taken seriously in the world of computers. A disguise. That was what she told herself, anyway. He'd be even more shocked if he knew where she went after work. She pushed that thought away. "You got no life?" she asked, fingering the metal clips on her ears. Silly question. Continue... Excerpted from BODY ELECTRIC by SUSAN SQUIRES Copyright (c) 2002 by Susan Squires Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.