Even aliens can't compete when it comes to drama in the workplace. Richard H. Hardy pens an exciting tale about an underground extraterrestrial computer with clairvoyant powers, but it's the humans it's manipulating who end up stealing the spotlight. Because what makes this story unique is that Hardy has inside knowledge about how technology companies operate, because he worked for one, and the office politics he infuses into the core of his novel definitely ring true to life. The long hours, the tight deadlines, the demanding clients - all combine to create an implied sense of urgency. Sure, the brain of one of the employees at HTPS Industries has been taken over by an intelligent life form, but Harry Sale's co-workers are so busy doing everything they can to climb the corporate ladder most of them don't even notice.
Except for new kid on the block, Jon Graeme, the only person that temperamental Harry bothers to interact with. After the two go on a fishing trip together, Harry gets lost in a cave and doesn't come back with a mind fully in tact. Jon notices that something's up with his friend, but he decides to humor him in order to try and get to the bottom of it. But Harry starts exhibiting some qualities that just don't add up. He starts writing code for hours on end. He doesn't go home to sleep. He only eats what he can forage out of the office vending machine. If only he were suffering from a broken heart, Jon might be able to understand his behavior and help him, but he's not.
Lettie is. She's been hung up on Harry for a very long time, but he barely acknowledges her existence. As a manager at HTPS Industries, she tries to protect Harry from the higher ups, but she can only do so much, until Jon comes along. The two of them form a common bond in their concern over Harry. They don't want to see him get fired, but he's not making it easy for them as he starts letting his professional life fall to pieces while succumbing to the demands of the alien entity that's slowly taking control of him.
The power struggle between Jon and Lettie is just as intriguing as the game Harry's playing with management. In both instances, they're each trying to one up the other, sometimes involuntarily. Jon is a good guy, but he allows those making the behind-the-scenes deals to manipulate him, throwing his burgeoning relationship with Lettie on the skids. As a woman in authority in a male-dominated workplace, she's the target of frequent discrimination and sexual harassment by her superiors. And with or without alien intervention, she's left to fend for herself when she's demoted as Jon becomes a rising star due to his ability to pacify Harry. Their interaction as a man and woman falling in love in a corporate environment demonstrates just how tricky it is to have it all.
Hardy is smart to use a sci-fi hook in order to discuss these crucial cultural issues. He draws readers in with an otherworldly premise that promises to entertain, while enlightening them about the challenges that people face in everyday life that are no less extraordinary or important than a super intelligent species looking to take over the earth. He mixes the mundane with the fantastical to maximum effect, causing readers to think with their minds and their hearts. Framed in this context, prejudice and intolerance are just as frightening as getting encapsulated in gelatinous slime or being resurrected by nanobots.