Today, I am pleased to present this guest post by Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion, writing together as M.H. Mead. Their novel Taking the Highway is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. More information can be found here.
The Future Has the Best Toys
The best part of science fiction for both of us is the cool new inventions. We love the toys. Specifically, we like the toys that end up having far-reaching, wide-angle effects that change society. Sometimes writers guess right and sometimes they guess wrong, but the thoughtful nature of the speculation is the heart of all science fiction. We love the tradition of playing “what if?” on a grand scale.
In our novels, we’ve written about everything from hyper-intelligent pets to murderous computer programs to brain chemicals that allow you to exercise while sleeping (we especially love that last one). But there’s one dream that we can’t let go of. It’s the thing that says future to readers everywhere, the thing that practically defines science fiction. We’re talking about the flying car.
Or maybe not. Without almost complete autopilot and navigation, our neighbors would probably wipe out half the population of Michigan. So we invented an intermediate and more reasonable step—smart highways.
In the near-future world of Taking the Highway, a series of interconnected artificial intelligences called Overdrive watches over Detroit’s highways. As cars take the onramp, the system is engaged and the silent electric cars are conducted to their destinations at a smooth and uninterrupted 160 kilometers an hour. Want to read? Go ahead and read. Want to catch up on your favorite program? Watch it. Need a nap? Take one. Overdrive will wake you up for your exit. People still drive while on surface streets, but on the highway, they are basically passengers.
Of course, none of this technology exists in a vacuum. The inventions themselves may be interesting, but their effect on society is fascinating. In Taking the Highway, Overdrive technology has a significant cost and comes with political compromises. Enforced carpooling is the law, and nobody can get on the highway with fewer than four people in the car. But what about carpools that come up short when a regular member is on vacation or sick? There’s one way for an incomplete carpool to get on the highway—hire a fourth.
These professional hitchhikers can be found near every highway entrance ramp. More than just a warm body, each fourth tries to outdo the others in looks and charm, since nobody wants a slob or a bore in his car. Fourths have become an accepted part of the commuting landscape. The city needs them. They need the work. It’s an easy way to earn some extra cash.
Or end up dead. Someone is killing fourths and the only one who can solve the murders is burnt-out homicide cop Andre LaCroix, who moonlights as a fourth himself. But as Andre looks into the murders, he finds disturbing links between the dead fourths, failures in the Overdrive system, and the sordid politics of Detroit.
Will Andre be able to solve the murders before becoming the next victim? He has to use his brains, his connections, and every single bit of high-tech equipment he has.
Thank goodness we’ve given him all the best toys.
About the authors: M.H. Mead is the shared pen name of Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion. To learn more about the authors, read some of their stories, or share a great key lime pie recipe, please visit their website at www.yangandcampion.com.