The girl also noticed the sign. "Are we there yet?" she asked.
"Very funny, princess."
"You know I hate it when you call me princess. I'm fourteen. That's a
name for a little kid."
"You act like a little kid sometimes."
The girl frowned at this, turned up the volume on her music player. The
resultant thumping was clear even over the air conditioner.
"Careful, Georgia, you'll give yourself tinnitus. What's that you're listening
"Well, that's an improvement, at least. Last month it was gothic rock.
The month before, it was--what was it?"
"Euro-house. Can't you settle on a style you like?"
Georgia shrugged. "I'm too intelligent for that."
The difference was evident the moment they reached the bottom of the exit
ramp. The road surface changed: instead of the cracked gray concrete of
U. S. Highway 95, lined like a reptile's skin by countless repairs, it
became a pale, smooth red, with more lanes than the freeway they'd just
left. Sculpted lights sloped gracefully over the macadam. For the first
time in twenty miles, Warne could see cars on the road ahead. He followed
them as the highway began a smooth, even climb from the alkali flats.
The signs here were white, with blue letters, and they all seemed to say
the same thing: Guest Parking Ahead.
The parking lot, almost empty at this early hour, was mind-numbingly large.
Following the arrows, Warne drove past a cluster of oversized recreational
vehicles, dwarfed like insects by the expanse of blacktop. He'd snorted
in disbelief when someone told him seventy thousand people visited the
park each day; now, he was inclined to believe it. In the seat beside
him, Georgia was looking around. Despite the practiced air of teenage
ennui, she could not completely conceal her eagerness.
Another mile and a half brought them to the front of the lot and a long,
low structure with the word 'Embarkation' displayed along its roof in
Art Deco letters. There were more cars here, people in shorts and sandals
milling about. As he eased up to a tollgate, a parking attendant approached,
indicating Warne to lower his window. The man wore a white polo shirt,
the stylized logo of a small bird sewn on the left breast.
Warne reached into the folder, pulled out a laminated card. The attendant
studied it, then plucked a digital stylus from his belt and examined its
screen. After a moment, he handed the passcard back to Warne, motioning
He parked beside a line of yellow trams, then dropped the passcard into
his shirt pocket. "Here we are," he said. And then, looking out at the
Embarkation building, he paused momentarily, thinking.
"You're not going to try to get back together with Sarah again, are you?"
Startled by the question, Warne looked over. Georgia returned his gaze.
It was remarkable, really, the way she could read his mind sometimes.
Maybe it was the amount of time they spent together, the degree they had
come to rely on each other in recent years. But whatever the case, it
could be very annoying. Especially when she chose only to speculate on
his more sensitive thoughts.
The girl lowered her headphones. "Dad, don't do it. She's a real ball-buster."
"Watch your mouth, Georgia." He pulled a small white envelope from the
folder. "You know, I don't think there's a woman on earth that would pass
muster with you. You want me to stay a widower the rest of my life?"
He said this with a little more force than he'd intended. Georgia's only
response was to roll her eyes and replace the headphones on her head.
Andrew Warne loved Georgia intensely, almost painfully. Yet he'd never
anticipated how difficult it would be to navigate the world, to raise
a daughter, all by himself. Sometimes he wondered if he was making a royal
mess of the job. It was at times like this that he missed Charlotte most
acutely. She would have known what to do. She always knew just what to
He looked at Georgia another moment. Then he sighed, took hold of the
door again, and yanked it open.
Instantly, furnace-like air boiled in. Warne slammed the door, waited
for Georgia to hoist her backpack onto her shoulders and follow, then
hopped over the shimmering tarmac to the Transportation Center.
Inside, it was pleasantly chilly. The Center was spotless and functional,
framed in blond wood and brushed metal. Glass-fronted ticket windows stretched
in an endless line to the left and right, deserted save for one directly
ahead. Another display of the laminated card and they were past and headed
down a brightly-lit corridor. In an hour or so, he knew, this space would
be jammed with harried parents, squirming kids, chattering tour guides.
Now, there was nothing but rows of metal crowd rails and the click of
his heels on the pristine floor.
A monorail was already waiting at the loading zone, low-slung and silver,
its doors open. Oversized windows curved up both sides, meeting at the
transport mechanism that clung to the overhead rail. Warne had never ridden
on a suspended monorail before, and he did not relish the prospect. He
could see a scattering of riders inside, mostly men and women in business
suits. An operator directed them to the frontmost car. It was, as usual,
spotless, its sole occupants a heavyset man in the front and a short,
bespectacled man in the rear. Though the monorail had not yet left the
Center, the heavyset man was looking around busily, his pasty, heavy-browed
face a mask of excitement and anticipation.
Warne let Georgia take the window seat, then slid in beside her. Almost
before they were seated, a low chime sounded and the doors came noiselessly
together. There was a brief lurch, followed by silky acceleration. Welcome
to the Utopia monorail, a female voice said from everywhere and nowhere.
It was not the usual voice Warne had heard on public address systems:
instead, it was rich, sophisticated, with a trace of a British accent.
Travel time to the Nexus will be approximately eight minutes and thirty
seconds. For your safety and comfort, we ask that you remain in your seats
for the duration of the ride.
Suddenly, brilliant light bathed the compartment as the Center fell away
behind them. Ahead and above, dual monorail tracks curved gently through
the center of a narrow sandstone canyon. Warne glanced down quickly, then
almost snatched his feet away in surprise. What he had supposed to be
a solid floor was actually a series of glass panels. Below his feet was
now an unobstructed drop of perhaps a hundred feet to the rocky canyon
floor. He took a deep breath and looked away.
"Cool," Georgia said.
The canyon we are traveling through is geologically very old, the voice
went smoothly on. Along its rim, you can see the juniper, sagebrush, and
scrub pinon characteristic of the high desert . . .
"Can you believe this?" said a voice in his ear. Turning, Warne saw that--in
flagrant defiance of the remain-seated edict--the heavyset man had walked
back through the car to take a seat across from them. He wore a painfully
orange floral shirt, had bright black eyes, and a smile that seemed too
big for his face. Like Warne, he had a small envelope in his hand. "Pepper,
Norman Pepper. My God, what a view. And in the first car, too. We'll have
a great view of the Nexus. Never been here before, but I've heard it's
outstanding. Outstanding. Imagine, buying a whole mountain, or mesa, or
whatever you call it, for a theme park! Is this your daughter? Pretty
girl you've got there."
"Say thank you, Georgia," Warne said.
"Thank you, Georgia," came a most unconvincing reply.
... On the canyon wall to the right of the train, you can see a series
of pictographs. These red-and-white anthropomorphs are the work of the
prehistoric inhabitants of this region, the period now known as Basketmaker
II, which flourished almost three thousand years ago . . .
"So what's your specialty?" Pepper asked.
The man shrugged his squat shoulders. "Well, you obviously don't work
at the park, 'cause y'all are riding the monorail in. And the park hasn't
opened yet, so you're not a visitor. That means you've got to be a consultant
or a specialist. Right? So is everybody on the train, I'll bet."
"I'm an--I'm in robotics," Warne replied.
"Artificial intelligence," came the echo. "Uh huh." He took a breath,
opened his mouth for another question.
"What about you?" Warne interjected quickly.
At this the man smiled even more broadly. He put his finger to one side
of his nose and winked conspiratorially. "Dendrobium giganteum."
Warne looked at him blankly.
"Cattleya dowiana. You know." The man seemed shocked.
Warne spread his hands. "Sorry."
"Orchids." The man sniffed. "Thought you might have guessed when you heard
my name. I'm the exotic botanist who did all the work at the New York
Exposition last year, maybe you read about it? Anyway, they want some
special hybrids for the atheneum they're building in Atlantis. And they're
having some problems with the night-bloomers in Gaslight. Don't like the
humidity or something." He spread his hands expansively, knocking both
his and Warne's envelopes to the ground. "All expenses paid, first class
ticket, nice fat consultancy fee--and it'll look great on my resume, too."
Warne nodded as the man retrieved the fallen envelopes, passed his back.
That he could believe. Utopia was supposedly so fanatical about the accuracy
of its themed Worlds that scholars were occasionally seen wandering around,
slack-jawed, taking notes. Georgia was gazing around at the canyon, paying
no attention to Pepper.
...The twenty square miles owned here by Utopia is rich in natural resources
and beauty, including two springs and a catchment basin . . .
Pepper glanced over his shoulder. "How about you?"
Warne had almost forgotten the slightly-built man with glasses sitting
behind them. The man blinked back, as if considering the question. "Smythe,"
he said. "Pyro."
"Pyrotechnics? You mean, like fireworks?"
The man smoothed his fingers over the tiny toothbrush moustache that grew
in the shadow of his nose. "I design the special shows, like the recent
six-month celebration. Troubleshooting, too. Some of the late-show indoor
chrysanthemums are launching too high, breaking panes of glass in the
"Can't have that," Pepper said.
"And in the Griffin Tower show, guests are complaining the maroons at
the end are too loud." The man fell silent abruptly, shrugged, turned
his head to look out the window.
Warne shifted his own gaze to the passing russet-colored cliffs, then
back to the interior of the monorail. Something had been bothering him,
and he suddenly realized what it was. He turned to Pepper. "Where are
all the characters, the action figures, Oberon, Morpheus, Pendragon? I
haven't seen so much as a decal."
"Oh, they're around, all right--in the shops and some of the children's
attractions. But you won't see any guys in rodent suits walking around.
Nightingale was very particular about that, they say. Very concerned about
the purity of the experience. That's why all this--" he waved a pudgy
hand--"the Transportation Center, the monorail, even the Nexus--is so
understated. No commercialization. Makes the actual Worlds that much more
real. Or so I've heard." He turned to the quiet man behind them. "Right?"
Pepper leaned a bit closer to Warne. "Never thought too much of Nightingale's
stuff myself. Those Blackstone Chronicles animated movies, based on his
old magic act? Too dark. But my kids are crazy for it. And they watch
his cartoons every week, like clockwork. They almost killed me when they
heard I was coming here, and they couldn't tag along." Pepper chuckled,
rubbing his hands together. Warne had read books where people rubbed their
hands in anticipation, but he wasn't sure he'd ever actually seen anybody
"My daughter would have killed me if I didn't bring her," he replied.
"Ouch!" he yelped as Georgia kicked him beneath the seat.
There was a brief silence. Warne rubbed his calf.
"So, you think it's true they've got a nuclear reactor buried underneath
the park?" Pepper asked.
"That's the rumor. I mean, just imagine the electrical overhead. The place
is its own municipality, for heaven's sake. Think of the juice it must
take to keep the whole place going, air conditioning, rides, computers.
I asked one of the hosts back in the Center, and she said they used hydro-electric
power. Hydro-electric! In the middle of the desert! I...hey, look--there
Excerpted from Utopia by Lincoln Child Copyrightę
2002 by Lincoln Child. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division
of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may
be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
seat beltsthe white-knuckle thrills at Utopia, the worlds
most fantastic theme park, escalate to nightmare proportions in this intricately
imagined techno-thriller by New York Times bestselling author Lincoln
of the stony canyons of Nevada, Utopia is a world on the cutting edge
of technology. A theme park attracting 65,000 visitors each day, its dazzling
array of robots and futuristic holograms make it a worldwide sensation.
But ominous mishaps are beginning to disrupt the once flawless technology.
A friendly robot goes haywire, causing panic, and a popular roller coaster
malfunctions, nearly killing a teenaged rider. Dr. Andrew Warne, the brilliant
computer engineer who designed much of the parks robotics, is summoned
from the East Coast to get things back on track.
On the day
Warne arrives, however, Utopia is caught in the grip of something far
more sinister. A group of ruthless criminals has infiltrated the parks
computerized infrastructure, giving them complete access to all of Utopias
attractions and systems. Their communication begins with a simple and
dire warning: If their demands are met, none of the 65,000 people in the
park that day will ever know they were there; if not, chaos will descend,
and every man, woman, and child will become a target. As one of the brains
behind Utopia, Warne finds himself thrust into a role he never imagined-trying
to save the lives of thousands of innocent people. And as the minutes
tick away, Warnes struggle to outsmart his opponents grows ever
more urgent, for his only daughter is among the unsuspecting crowds in
evokes the technological wonders of Utopia with such skill and precision
it is hard to believe the park exists only in the pages of this extraordinary
book. Like Jurassic Park, Utopia sweeps readers into a make-believe
world of riveting suspense, technology, and adventure.
Where technology dazzlesand then turns deadly!
Child was born in Westport, Connecticut in 1957, but spent some of
his childhood in Abersystwyth, Wales. In 1979, after graduating from Carleton
College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he majored in English, he secured
a position as editorial assistant at St. Martin's Press in New York City.
While at St. Martin's he work his way up the hierarchy to become a full
editor in 1984. He also assembled several collections of ghost and horror
stories --- Dark Company (1984), Dark Banquet (1985) ---
and later founded the company's mass-market horror division and edited
three more collections (Tales of the Dark 1-3).
Lincoln left trade publishing to work at MetLife. In a rather sudden transition,
he went from editing manuscripts, speaking at sales conferences, and wining/dining
agents to doing highly technical programming and systems analysis. Though
the switch might seem bizarre, Lincoln was a propeller-head from a very
early age, and his extensive programming experience dates back to high
school, when he worked with DEC minis and the now-prehistoric IBM 1620,
so antique it actually had an electric typewriter mounted into its front
panel. Away from the world of publishing, Lincoln's own nascent interests
in writing returned. While at MetLife, Relic was published, and
within a few years Lincoln left the company to write full time. He now
lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter.