Suspicion by Mike McQuay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This sequel to Robot City: Odyssey didn’t let me down. We have Derec and Kate still in Robot City, unable to leave, guests of the robots, against their wills. Why are they guests? Well, in my review of the previous book, I said there was a cliff hanger. Here it is. One other human has been on the planet and he has wound up murdered. Since robots can’t murder humans, Derec and Kate are the suspects, even though they weren’t even on the planet when it occurred.
While Kate is obsessed with solving the murder and exonerating themselves, Derec is obsessed with the city itself. See, it’s growing. Constantly. And it rains every night. Hard. He discovers an underground reservoir where the water is about to overflow and destroy the city, but if the city would just stop growing, things would be okay. But he also discovers where the city is growing. Near the reservoir, in underground mines, a zillion robots are helping to build a living organism that evolves and grows — the city, all under the watchful eyes of the robot supervisors. He confronts them and they say it can’t be stopped. He’s frustrated.
Meanwhile, Kate finds the murder site. It’s an enclosed building that needs to have a hole cut into it for her to enter. In it, she finds the naked body of the man called David, strangely, Derec’s given name. When she turns the body over, she freaks out because she sees Derec. She passes out and the robots rush to get Derec to come assist her.
Derec keeps thinking about the city and the robots. He finds the very first robot and quizzes him. It saw a human walking away from him as his first waking sight. Derec is convinced the pyramid at the center of the city plays a key role and enters it, only to be told that the top of it is off limits. He goes in anyway. He goes up some stairs and finds an office. Of a human. Who is obviously not there. And he finds a computer. With files for defense of the city, which he reads. He tries to modify them, but is unable to do so.
Later, he and Kate go to the building housing the dead man. They enter and find the body gone. Derec gets suspicious. The computer had said something about an alien presence in its defensive information. The body had had a cut on its foot. The building was enclosed and had no air. He cut himself and let his blood hit the ground. Immediately, the building closed up around them, enclosing them in it. The blood is the alien presence. Derec now knows what killed David. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Still, the rains come. Derec rushes to the mines to find the supervisors to see if they’ll let him reprogram the core to include hemoglobin in its defenses, as well as to dig further for more space. One of them helps him. They find the core, he programs it, the core accepts it, the city is saved.
Good book. But lots of unanswered questions. Robot City has no communication equipment. It can’t let anyone know Derec and Kate are on their planet, nor can it summon a ship for them. Who is the human overseer and probable creator of the city? Where is he hiding? What happened to their key that brought them there that they hid in the pyramid? Who was David? I guess I’ll be looking for those answers and more in Book Three. It’s a short book and readable in one day. Not too heavy, not too sci fi, except for the robots. But fun, nonetheless. Recommended, assuming you’ve read the first one.