Review of “Three Laws Lethal”

David Walton is a sci-fi author who inspired me in those years before I really got serious about writing my own novels.  He’s a fellow Lockheed Martin engineer, and I first learned of him through the company’s e-newsletter.  It was a revelation: you can be a published author and an engineer?  Who knew?

David’s had great success in traditional publishing.  He won the 2008 Phillip K. Dick award for his novel Terminal Mind.  He won the 2018 Campbell Award for his novel The Genius Plague, about a fungal infection that gives its victims a boost in intelligence (but at a price, of course!).  Check out his website at www.davidwaltonfiction.com.

His latest novel, Three Laws Lethal, takes on a subject I’ve never seen before in science fiction: the ethics of self-driving cars. Something most people have never thought about, but David introduces it cleverly, through both examples and discussion. One of the basic questions is how a self-driving car should make decisions when avoiding an accident. Is it OK to do an avoidance maneuver if that would cause another car to crash?  Does it make a difference which car has more occupants?  These are questions we as a society must deal with in the near future, hopefully before lawsuits start flying.  Is the answer to prohibit self-driving cars?  Not if, as the author points out, self-driving cars can reduce the number of accidents and fatalities.

The other main topic of the novel is Artificial Intelligence.  The marriage of AI and self-driving cars seems inevitable, and this novel finds a unique way to have this all happen.  I won’t spoil anything by explaining further.

Any good novel needs great characters, and the author created a very personable and relatable pair of main characters.  I found it particularly interesting that one of them is an extreme introvert, which only makes sense when the character is a techie.  You don’t find a lot of extreme introverts as main characters, since their very nature makes it difficult to have a story.  If a character gravitates away from interaction with other characters, that can make it hard to tell a story.  But the author accomplishes it, and gives us an intriguing insight into such a character’s personality.

Science Fiction fans will of course see the Asimov reference in the title.  I’m happy to say that the sci-fi references don’t end there.  The two main characters are tech nerds, but also huge sci-fan fans, so their dialogue includes lots of great references to sci-fi classics, including a few obscure ones that may test your knowledge (but don’t worry if you don’t get something, they’re not essential to enjoying the book).

Three Laws Lethal is an exciting novel, and will lead you on several twists that you won’t see coming, right up to the edge-of-your-seat conclusion.  I highly recommend this book.

Author: RickAAllenSF

Semi-retired engineer, now a SF author

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