Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: Pilgrennon's Beacon by Manda Benson

Dana is autistic, but considered functional enough to be in regular school classes. Despite the best efforts of her foster parents, she endures the cruelty of uninformed teachers and schoolyard bullies. Dana also has a secret: she can talk to computers. There’s a wi-fi gadget implanted in her brain. Unknown to Dana, she’s the product of an experiment by Ivor Pilgrennon, a scientist with a bit of a Frankenstein complex.

When an attack at school sends Dana to the hospital for an overnight stay, she picks up on a distant computer signal that seems to be offering her a safe haven: Pilgerennon’s Beacon, calling the subjects of his experiment to the isolated island where he’s hiding out. She soon finds herself involved with Jananin Blake, a brilliant physicist and the inventor of the gadget in Dana’s brain. Jananin hates Pilgrennon, and is appalled by his experiments, which included unauthorized use of her invention. But her own moral compass is as skewed as Pilgrennon’s.

The adventure that follows is like a mad roller-coaster ride, with Dana caught between the two scientists, wondering whether she can trust either of them, finding herself in circumstances that demand she stretch her abilities to the fullest. It’s a trip down the rabbit hole, with forays into the world of virtual reality.

This is a thriller, an action-adventure book complete with world-wide conspiracies, chase scenes, a dollop of fighting and explosions, mysteries and madness. But there’s tenderness as well, little acts of caring, touches of pathos. Through it all, we see the two scientists gradually changing, as Dana struggles to make sense of a world that too often “doesn’t compute.”

It’s a hard book to put down, and I’m looking forward to the sequel. Highly recommended.

Check out Manda's website at

No comments: