The Jericho Iteration , by Allen Steele

The Jericho Iteration , by Allen Steele book coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Ace
Published: 1994
Reviewer Rating: two stars
Book Review by David L. Felts

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I recently picked up Allen Steele’s The Jericho Iteration. It’s one of his earlier works, having been published in 1995 and was, I learned in my research, his first hardcover release. I picked up the paperback version for a dollar at my local Dollar Store.

The story is set in earthquake-devastated St. Louis. Eleven months after the quake, the city remains under martial law, policed by the troops of the federal Emergency Relief Agency (ERA). Gerry Rosen (who lost his son in the quake and as a result his marriage) gets a message meant for his friend and fellow reporter John Tiernan. That chance meeting ends up setting into motion a whole series of events that pulls Rosen in deeper and deeper as he uncovers much more than he thought was merely some corporate misbehavior. Rosen finds himself pitted against the ERA and corporate baddies as layers of the mystery are peeled back.

Some of the near future technology Steele speculates on ends up being rather stale; modem connections to the Internet, file sizes, ‘flopticals’…. in some cases we’ve already surpassed his ideas. In 1995, they no doubt seemed like logical extensions on the current tech scene, but in 2004, they are already anachronistic.

Too, the story tries to grapple with too much; top-secret laser satellite, artificial intelligence, a subversive move to overthrow the US government, a revolution against the Union by Washington and Oregon, artificial intelligence… there’s so much going on in the background that none it receives enough attention to give it the authenticity it needs. As such, these events end up being an unconvincing background to Steele’s world.

Steele keeps the story going at a good clip, mixing interesting–though somewhat unlikely and emotionally flat–characters and well-written action to create an enjoyable, but shallow read.

Ultimately, however, he ends up with a story that mixes the oft-used ingredients of artificial intelligence, corporate conspiracy, and government/military secrecy in ways most SF fans have encountered many times before, culminating in a deus ex machina moment at the end that saps much of the built up momentum.

The final result is an entertaining, but certainly not innovative (at least in 2004) book, that was worth the dollar I paid for it.

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