98.4 leaves the reader with chills
by Christopher Hodder-Williams
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date: December 24, 2015
Nigel Yenn is a Security expert, working for a mysterious corporation riddled with secrets.
His life is unsurprising and by-the-book.
All that is about to change…
Dazed after losing his girlfriend Ruth and his job, he is in limbo. But soon he realises that knowledge is power … especially in a terrifying world of computerisation gone berserk.
International organisations and agencies have become deeply troubled by what they suspect is happening at Nigel’s former workplace in Elstree. One particular arm of the company, Group Three, run by pioneering Dr Stergen, is eerily private. Accessing information about them is virtually impossible – barring the garish PR stunts used by Stergen to raise his own image while keeping him immune from challenging questions.
In a final bid to uncover the chilling mystery of this strange organisation and the exact nature of Stergen’s work, UN agent Charles Chindale tracks Nigel down and recruits him to investigate.
Faced with no alternative, Nigel pursues every line of enquiry he can, unravelling a haunting series of events, the likes of which the world has never seen before…
Deep inside the laboratories of Group Three, an abomination is being developed.
Dr Stergen is using human brain power like never before … to create a weapon of mass destruction, forging brain waves with computer chips inside ballistic missiles.
Humanity has never been less safe.
Nigel is the only hope they have left.
98.4 is an excellent example of classic near-future science fiction.
When you keep in mind that 98.4 was originally published in 1969, it is all the more amazing. While bits and pieces show its early origin, the novel holds up extremely well to the test of time. The central characters have an intense realism, and their actions and motivations can be understood.
Nigel has recently lost his job and his girlfriend. The reasons are nebulous and linked to parts of his past he has forgotten, whether by accident or design. This past comes to haunt the present. Nigel is hired to investigate Group 3, a research team led by Dr Stergen. To the public, Stergen is a pioneer, a hero, but the public is unaware of his private research. The UN has heard rumors of inhuman research techniques applied to the development of a weapon of mass destruction - bombs containing human brains.
Stergen has been removing brains from research subjects, using them to create organic computers. Nigel’s memories hold the key to revealing Stergen’s plan and stopping him, before he starts a war.
98.4 is an impressive science fiction thriller blending action and espionage. Christopher Hodder-Williams clearly did a lot of research in preparation for this novel. While some of the technology referenced is dated from our viewpoint, it is important to remember this novel is set in 1969, not the present. The US still was in the throws of McCarthyism and fear of the communism motivated extremist factions. The fear that the US would try to start a war on the strike first premise was a very real one. The UN was viewed with suspicion. This history plays an important role within 98.4.
This cerebral thriller will appeal to lovers of classic, character driven science fiction.
I received a copy of 98.4 from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.