Monday, March 20, 2017

2184: Beneath the Steel City, Book 1 by Ben Lovejoy

Release date: March 16, 2017
Subgenre: Dystopian fiction

About 2184: Beneath the Steel City:


In London 2184, the government monitors every move its citizens make, logs every action, notes every visit, supervises every communication, penalises the slightest transgression with all the warmth and sympathy of a hungry piranha.

Computer tech David Lafferty has grown tired of living beneath the crushing weight of a billion petty rules, and decided it was time to create his own rules in an underground life beneath the steel city. Aided by Saira, a Self-propelled Artificially Intelligent Robot Assistant, and a small circuit board stolen from the government, all is going well until an unknown adversary appears to have learned his every secret…



Robots are dumb. Actually, that’s unfair, Saira isn’t dumb at all – as Self-propelled Artificially Intelligent Robot Assistants go, she’s pretty smart. But they are very literal when it comes to behaving the way they’ve been programmed to behave. Which is problematic when they’ve been programmed to obey the law and you would very much like one not to.

I’d planned for her to remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that I was here without invitation. I’d had the door codes, the keycard pass loaded onto my pocket terminal, the fingerprints. Not my own fingerprints, obviously, but latex moulds good enough to persuade the entry system that they were real, and that was almost the same thing.

At each of the three security doors through which we’d passed, I’d sauntered up to them with the air of a man very much going about his lawful business, his robot companion at his side, and then breezed through them without so much as the flicker of an amber light. All I needed Saira to do was plug herself into the access port of the safe door – the final barrier between me and my prize – and transmit the 256-character authorisation code.

The code would be accepted. My possession of the previous generation of this chip guaranteed that. What I hadn’t counted on was the automatic verbal warning system triggered by Saira plugging herself into the communications port.

“Attention!” it had said, in that imperious way government systems always spoke to citizens and their electronic companions. “Only duly authorised robots are permitted to interface with this system. Please verify the credentials of the person under whose authority you are operating before proceeding by requesting sight of their government employee access pass, grade Alpha Four or above. Removal of any property from the safe without lawful authority would be theft.”

Saira paused, and a countdown timer next to the access port began doing what countdown timers do. I wasn’t exactly sure what would happen when the timer reached zero, but I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to like it. Right now, it was reading one minute and thirty seconds.

“It’s ok,” I said, in what I very much hoped was a reassuring tone. “I wouldn’t have been able to get us into the facility without the correct pass. You may proceed.” One minute twenty-five seconds.

It was a logical-sounding argument, I thought. Saira had seen me use a keycard pass to unlock one of the security doors. That should, I felt, be sufficient. I was wrong. 

“I am required to perform sight verification of the pass,” she replied. This was problematic because, while my keycard coding was correct  in every detail, and the on-screen visual resemblance good enough to fool a fellow human, my failure to anticipate the possibility of Saira being required to inspect the pass had left it without the embedded microdot coding that would verify my specific access rights.

I dislike unexpected problems. I especially dislike unexpected problems arising at inconvenient times – and that countdown timer suggested to me that we were now one minute and twenty-one seconds away from a time which would qualify as such.


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About Ben Lovejoy:

Ben Lovejoy is a tech writer turned novelist. His first published novel was 11/9, a page-turning technothriller about terrorists planning an attack bigger than 9/11. This was followed by The Billion Dollar Heist, a team of loveable rogues with a crazy plan to steal a billion dollars in cash.

Ben has also written a rom-com, Dated, which he denies is based on real events, and a non-fiction travel guide, The Gentle Art of Travel.

His latest work is 2184, a 13,500-word short introducing the Beneath the Steel City series of SF novellas.

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