What if your home wanted you dead? This is the question posed by Alyx: An AI’s Guide to Love and Murder by Brent A. Harris. It’s a sharp hook, one that forced me to narrow my gaze and glare at the thermostat.
Harris is a talented author who writes across a broad spectrum, everything from alternate history to steampunk time travel. It’s a wild repertoire that gets wilder with each release. So when I see “new YA sci-fi horror book by Brent A. Harris,” it’s kinda like seeing “new romantic comedy by Stephen King.” I have no idea what to think, but I don’t care. Just shut up and take my money.
Alyx opens with a catchy scene where we meet the protagonist and learn about some family drama. Christine and her mother are moving from the Midwest to Southern California, a big transition both mentally and technologically. Their new house is infused with the latest and greatest tech, specifically Alyx, the structure’s AI system.
While the mother struggles to gather her new bearings, Christine takes to the situation like a duck to water. She was raised on technology from early childhood and sees it as an extension of herself. She and Alyx form a quick and intimate bond, and as Christine begins to make new friends, the stage is set for some dark confrontations.
Christine is a solid protagonist, in that her portrayal is very poignant. She embodies a tech-obsessed teen bound to a hyper-connected culture. She’s angsty and petulant, but without being an unfair caricature. Harris treats her with respect and avoids cliched dilemmas. Even her intimate scenes are provocative without being gratuitous. She is easy to sympathize with, even when she makes ill-advised decisions (that are wholly within character).
The plot gave me some Black Mirror vibes with pops of Ready Player One, which I loved. The dialogue was sharp, the pacing was snappy, and the meta refs were on point. The AI scene breaks in particular were my favorite parts of the book. They reminded me a lot of iRobot, in that the unbreakable laws of robotics are indeed malleable if the right situation is presented. In many ways, they paint the portrait of a flawed and nuanced villain.
All in all, Alyx is a gripping tale that oozes with tension. Harris does a great job in guiding the reader with just enough info to keep them hungry. It all culminates in a jaw-dropping ending that lingers in your mind long after you put the book down. Highly recommended.