Eric Leuthardt’s debut novel, Red Devil 4, explores the benefits and potential pitfalls of combining humans with networked neural implants. Overall, it’s a fascinating (and disturbing) near-future science fiction tale. The story glides along the surface of reality, so close it feels quite real itself.
Leuthardt is a neurosurgeon, a biomedical engineer, and a pioneer in the field of neuroprosthetics. In his role as director of the Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology at Washington University’s School of Medicine, Leuthardt researches brain-computer interface technology. It’s little wonder that his novel feels chillingly plausible, in a futuristic sense.
Red Devil 4 is set in the year 2053, and centers around Dr. Hagan Maerici, a neurosurgeon who’s working on a revolutionary AI technology. A researcher still has to pay the bills, though, so Maerici is spread thinly between his clinical work and teaching (with an officious twerp for a boss), his research, and his whiny wife. He’s an interesting character, as he is both every-man and super-man.
When a bizarre and grisly series of murders is investigated by police detectives Tara Dezner and Edwin Krantz, things get even stickier for Maerici; all of the cases have some tie to him. The detectives are certain that Maerici is involved, but is he a culprit or an unwitting pawn?
Dezner and Krantz are an unlikely pair: she being an ex-Navy-SEAL, a rising star in the department who’s up on all the latest technology, and he being near retirement and a technophobe. Their interplay is amusing and as the story builds, each becomes a credible personality in the reader’s mind.
The first third of the book plods along at a pace that verges on dull. Bear with it. The second third of the book picks up the pace a bit and cranks the intrigue level up to 8. The final third of Red Devil 4, though, is as thrilling and engulfing (and just plain scary!) as a Michael Crichton novel. On the one hand, I felt like I should be wearing some kind of protective helmet, and on the other hand, I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened next.
Tune in to ‘The Event Horizon” on Saturday, April 5, 2014, as Gene Turnbow and Susan Fox interview Dr. Eric Leuthardt! Stay tuned for information about our upcoming book giveaway, when you’ll have the chance to win your own copy of “Red Devil 4.”