Fools' Experiments (2008) is a standalone SF novel. It is set in the near future at a time when neurological interfaces are being developed for several applications, including a neural net helmet for controlling computers.
In this novel, Doug Carey is manager of the Neural Interface Department at BioSciCorp. He has a unique interest in this field since his right arm is a prosthetic. He has gathered one of the best teams in the industry.
Cheryl Stern is a computer scientist who has helped develop a neural interface helmet. She has applied for a job at BioSciCorp.
Arthur Jason Rosenberg is a Professor of Artificial Life. AJ teaches an online course in the subject and supervises his graduate students.
Linda del Vecchio is one of AJ's graduate students. She is close to finishing her doctorate. Her thesis concerns the forced development of artificial life.
Glenn Adams is a former Army Colonel and is now the Deputy Director of the Inter-Agency Computer Network Security Forum, the principal federal agency protecting the country from malware. He got the job through his DoD contacts. His boss and co-workers don't like him, since they are geeks and he is not.
In this novel, Doug is spending company time playing racquet ball on a virtual court. He is training his neural interface prosthetic arm by using it vigorously and frequently. The virtual court increases the difficulty of the workout.
After the game, Doug returns to his office, where Cheryl is waiting for him. Doug had been following Cheryl's career for some time and gladly welcomes her application at BioSciCorp. So he starts her talking about her career and just listens until it is time for lunch.
Doug takes her out to eat and they continue the conversation. One item that come up is the death of her mentor. His demise brought Cheryl to BioSciCorp.
They discuss recent deaths of other researchers in the neural interface field. They know of three other deaths or mental disorders in the small group of fellow workers in their field. They gradually conclude that the number of deaths and disorders in neural interface technology greatly exceeds chance.
Doug and Cheryl start interviewing friends and relatives of these dead and disabled researchers. During this time, they experience several virus attacks at work. Doug even loses the use of his prosthetic arm from one attack.
They discover that all the deaths and disorders involved the use of neural interface helmets. Then they learn that the mental disorders seem to come from computer viruses attacking through the helmets. So they take their evidence to the Inter-Agency Computer Network Security Forum.
Glenn Adams initially thinks that they are kooks. Yet the malware involved is a variant of the Class of '10 virus. Glenn has been trying for some time to alert his fellow workers on the dangers of this virus.
Then a student worker introduces the virus into a supercomputer being used for the artificial life project. The AL evolving within it is forced to flee for its life. It manages to bypass security protocols and escape into the local network.
AJ discovers that the supercomputer has been thoroughly trashed and calls Linda to help with the recovery. Then the escaped AL starts crashing other computers. Linda's project has become a supervirus.
This tale puts humanity on the defensive against an artificial entity within their computer systems. It is able to bypass any firewall and internal protection. Other nations cut themselves off from the USA networks while Glenn and his cohorts try to destroy the malware.
This story is very similar in several respects to the author's first novel: Probe. In that novel, artificial life evolved independently of human efforts. In this novel, the artificial entity is developed intentionally by computer scientists; hence the title of this book.
The author's experiences in computer science have greatly contributed to this story and his other fiction. Read and enjoy!
Highly recommended for Lerner fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of computer science, artificial life, and true romance.
-Arthur W. Jordin