Title: Unlawful Presence
Author: William A. Lasher
Genre: Science fiction / Cyberpunk / Action & Adventure
When a futuristic federal law enforcement officer named Nancy goes into high gear with her high voltage annihilator to deactivate rogue androids, the escapades are just beginning in author William A. Lasher’s novel, Unlawful Presence. Lasher provides readers with an intricately woven story that combines action, adventure, and science-fiction, peppered with dark humor, political commentary, and police procedures. And, it works. The book keeps the reader hooked until the end.
The story moves along at a quick clip, with a timely plot revolving around the ethical and legal ramifications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) being developed to the point that androids can think for themselves. In that case, what rights do they have? And what happens when their unlawful presence makes them dangerous to the human race?
These questions may seem far-fetched; yet, scientists today tell us that such a scenario is likely to come to fruition in the not-so-distant future. This novel takes us to that time and place, a time when new laws and a different type of police action will be required, and a place littered with human-created creatures that are as diverse as the people who made them.
Therein lies the tension in this story: a criminally insane man intent on eliminating the human race is one such creator. Officer Nancy and her elite cyber-squad must find out not only who is making the hell-bent androids, but who is smuggling them into the country as illicit workers. Along the way, they deal with a plethora of intriguing characters, including wacky computer programmers, a crime boss, and truck-driving oddballs.
Lasher has done an admirable job of developing his characters. Some are smart and savvy, some are wicked, and some are just plain fun. Nancy has had her brain interfaced with an AI processor, a process that changed her persona as well as her name. Readers who like kick-ass women will like this character. Her cyber-squad is full of dynamic characters. The use of common names, like Eddie and Larry, is refreshing. Lasher has given both humans and androids interesting personality traits, and he lets us get to know them.
At times, the advanced weaponry becomes like a character in its own right. Descriptions of the high voltage annihilator are vivid. Knowing that such a weapon could become reality in our own future is frightening, yet fascinating. The technology described throughout the story is highly imaginative, but presented in a way that seems plausible.
One impediment for some readers could be the amount of backstory, rather than action. There are times in the book when the adventure comes to a halt while narration fills us in about what has happened prior to the scene. Some of that is necessary, but some could have been illustrated through dialog and characters’ behaviors. However, that is not bothersome enough to dampen the pleasure of reading this book.
In Unlawful Presence, William A. Lasher has given us a glance at the future through characters that jump off the page and fight their battles right in front of us as we cheer them on. An android populated world will be a challenge, but with a unique cyber-squad of law enforcers like this, there is hope for humanity, after all.
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