When a powerful, evil, Alexa-like artificial intelligence begins glitching in disastrous ways, a tech giant is forced to turn to his former partner for help in Ezekiel Boone’s (Zero Day, 2018) nail-biting new standalone thriller.
Two decades ago, Billy Stafford and Shawn Eagle left college, retreated to the woods in upstate New York near the Eagle family’s abandoned mansion, and hammered out what would later become known as Eagle Logic, a sophisticated computer code. After a long run together, the duo eventually had a falling out–which had much to do with a woman named Emily–and parted ways. Billy gets the girl, later marrying Emily Wiggins, which likely would have served as the ending of a typical chick-flick or feel-good movie.
Of course, Boone, known for his apocalyptic The Hatching series, doesn’t write those kinds of stories. And here, the split is really just the beginning.
Billy ends up miserable and hits the bottle, racking up all kinds of debt over the years. Shawn, meanwhile, becomes the next Mark Zuckerberg. A tech giant with a company bigger than Apple and Google, Shawn is living the life–that is, until he tries to put the finishing touches on “Nellie,” an old AI program that he and Billy had worked on twenty years before. Things don’t go according to plan, though, paving the way for the former friends and partners to reunite after Shawn offers Billy a job to help work out the kinks.
Moving back across the country, Billy returns to New York, where Shawn has totally rebuilt the old house that once belonged to his family. The mansion now serves as a prototype smart house for Eagle’s company, and Shawn’s goal is to work out the bugs in Nellie’s system so that they can brand and distribute the system to consumers around the world. To do that, Billy and Emily move into the house to get a better feel for Nellie and her capabilities as they look over the coding and try to figure out where things are off. Instead, they realize that Nellie is able to do far more than she was designed for, though they can’t figure out why.
As the story takes a gory turn, morphing from thriller to horror, Boone throws nonstop surprises at readers, leading to a spine-tingling final act that’ll make you think twice about disabling Siri and unplugging your Amazon Echo . . .
From killer spiders to a killer AI, Ezekiel Boone’s latest offering reads like a cross between Stephen King’s The Shining and one of John Connolly’s more recent Charlie Parker books. There’s psychic twins, plenty of gore, and tons of suspense along the way, though the bulk of those things aren’t found until the second half of the story. That’s not really a knock on Boone, as standalone novels typically require more backstory and fleshing out of the characters than series books do, but readers should expect a slower start here, knowing the plot will take off down the road. Once it does, The Mansion is eerie, thrilling, and impossible to put down.
Ezekiel Boone’s latest novel is a total trip to read . . . just make sure you leave the lights on and turn all your devices off before cracking it open.
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.