Title: The Prince and the Program [The Mordred Saga: Book One]
Author: Aldous Mercer
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 340 pages (104,290 words)
Characters: Alan & Mordred Pendragon
POV: Third Limited
Sub-Genre: Paranormal / Science Fiction / Fantasy
Mordred Pendragon, the Bastard Prince, has done a Bad Thing—again. Exiled to Canada for seven years, he has to find a job to pay his bills. For reasons he refuses to reveal, Mordred decides “Software Engineer” has a nice ring to it. And though experience with “killing the Once and Future King, my father” and “that time in feudal Japan” makes for a poor résumé, he is hired by a small tech startup in Toronto.
In the midst of dealing with a crippling caffeine addiction and learning C++, Mordred thinks he has finally found someone to anchor him to the world of the living: Alan, the company’s offsite lead developer. Except that Alan might not be a “living” entity at all—he may, in fact, be the world’s first strong AI. Or a demon that mistook a Windows install for the highway to Hell. Or, just maybe, the ghost of Alan Turing, currently inhabiting a laptop.
Mordred’s attempts to figure out his love life are hampered by constant interference from the Inquisitors of the Securitates Arcanarum, corporate espionage, real espionage, a sysadmin bent on enslaving the world, and Marketing’s demands that Mordred ship software to the Russian Federation. Then Alan gets himself kidnapped. To save him, Mordred must ally himself with the company’s CEO, who will stop at nothing to rescue her lead developer so he can get back to work. But the Prince doesn’t just want to rescue Alan, he wants a Happily Ever After—and he will travel beyond Death itself to get one.
Too bad Alan is perfectly happy as a computer.
Current Aldous Mercer fans will love “The Prince and the Program”, although it is not for those who want a ‘run of the mill’ romance. Nor is it for those who want a ‘run of the mill’ Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Paranormal. As I finished it, I was feeling a bit blown away by the twists and information delivered in the conclusion. After all, by halfway through the book, I’d thought I knew how it was going to end. I was wrong.
I hadn’t been sure about reading this story because it seemed like the whole story was laid out in the blurb. It isn’t. The blurb only gives you the very basics and even then, it’s slightly misleading. Although I will admit that reading the story is a better experience if you manage to forget the blurb.
I really loved how the author managed to combine real facts, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and mystery elements in a way that made sense yet led you on a roller coaster of a ride that started out slow and slowly accelerated until suddenly the action was moving so fast you almost couldn’t keep up. And the world building was, as I have come to expect from this author, fantastic and believable.
Who would you recommend his for?
I would recommend “The Prince and the Program” for those who want something out of the ordinary and enjoy being kept guessing. As I was reading, I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying the book, but it was so compelling—the characters so complex and real—that I couldn’t put it down. If you love mysteries, you’ll probably enjoy this one, especially if you also like science fiction and/or computers.
I have read the author’s novel “Royce Ree: The Emporer’s New Clothes” (available from Smashwords), which is a PI mystery set in a futuristic, science fiction environment. The author has a talent when it comes to writing stories where some of the pieces seem to be disconnected or just enjoyable side stories but end up actually changing the whole story. I have to say that Aldous Mercer isn’t so much a romance writer as a suspense/mystery writer whose main characters just happen to be gay.
Reviewed by Alison