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Zimmerman's Algorithm
S. Andrew Swann
DAW Books, 387 pages

Zimmerman's Algorithm
S. Andrew Swann
S. Andrew Swann is a full-time novelist who has been writing science fiction, horror, and suspense since he left the mechanical engineering program at Cleveland State University. He lives in the Cleveland area where he has stayed for the last 25 years. His other novels include the Moreau and Hostile Takeover trilogies, and most recently, God's Dice, The Flesh, the Blood, and the Fire (as S.A. Swiniarski), and TeeK (as Steven Krane).

S. Andrew Swann Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Teek by Stephen Krane
SF Site Review: Fearful Symmetries

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

When Washington, D.C. cop Gideon Malcolm follows up a tip about a stolen supercomputer, he gets more than he bargained for. The computer is right where the tipster said it would be -- but so are a lot of men with masks and silenced guns, waiting to ambush whoever was supposed to pick it up. In the ensuing shootout, Gideon is severely wounded and his brother, Raphael, is killed.

Driven by the need to give some meaning to his brother's death, Gideon embarks on a search for answers. The more he digs, the more it becomes apparent that his digging isn't welcome. First he's handed over to Internal Affairs, where it looks as if he'll be tagged as responsible for the whole debacle. Then people start to die -- the snitch who gave him the tip in the first place, a friend he has persuaded to help him. Finally attempts are made on his own life.

But Gideon has become obsessed with his search, and he refuses to give up. Pursued by unidentified assassins, receiving unexpected assistance from people just as mysterious, Gideon finds himself on the trail of an enigmatic woman: Julia Zimmerman, a mathematical genius who has disappeared from her top-secret government cryptography job, apparently into the ranks of a shadowy pan-Islamic terrorist group. But was she kidnapped, or did she willingly defect in order to follow her own -- and possibly much more frightening -- agenda?

Zimmerman's Algorithm has an interesting premise, and for most of the book Swann does a good job of unraveling the mystery, keeping always just a step ahead of readers' expectations. He's also adept at laying out the mathematical ideas involved (though these are, in a sense, red herrings). And through the character of Julia Zimmerman, with her single-minded and evangelical pursuit of a hidden mathematical universe, he puts a somewhat different spin on the oft-used notion of the sentient computer network.

Apart from the interesting mathematics, though, and Julia herself, the elements of Zimmerman's Algorithm are stock thriller. If you read at all within the genre, you'll be familiar with most everything here, from computer terrorism to shadowy conspiracies within the CIA. Characterization, plotting, and execution never rise above the basic, and in the book's final sections the action becomes entirely predictable. Nevertheless, it's a diverting read, if not exactly an original one.

Copyright © 2000 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

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