Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution

Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution

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An FBI agent hunts a new kind of terrorist through a Washington, DC, of the future in this groundbreaking book - at once a gripping technothriller and a fact-based tour of tomorrow

America is on the brink of a revolution, one both technological and political. The science fiction of AI and robotics has finally come true, but millions are angry and fearful that the future has left them behind.

After narrowly stopping a bombing at Washington’s Union Station, FBI Special Agent Lara Keegan receives a new assignment: to field-test an advanced police robot. As a series of shocking catastrophes unfolds, the two find themselves investigating a conspiracy whose mastermind is using cutting-edge tech to rip the nation apart. To stop this new breed of terrorist, their only hope is to forge a new type of partnership.

Burn-In is especially chilling because it is something more than a pulse-pounding read: every tech, trend, and scene is drawn from real world research on the ways that our politics, our economy, and even our family lives will soon be transformed. Blending a techno-thriller’s excitement with nonfiction’s insight, Singer and Cole illuminate the darkest corners of the world soon to come.

Available Resources

  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328637239

  • ISBN-10: 1328637239

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $28.00

  • Publication Date: 05/26/2020

  • Carton Quantity: 12

P. W. Singer

P. W. Singer

P. W. SINGER is an expert on twenty-first-century warfare. His award-winning nonfiction books include the New York Times bestseller Wired for War.
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August Cole

August Cole

AUGUST COLE is a writer and analyst specializing in national security issues and a former defense industry reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
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  • reviews
    Burn-In is a fantastic, compelling, and authoritative look into the future—a future that is equal parts amazing and terrifying. With Burn-In, Peter Singer and August Cole establish themselves both as masters of the techno-thriller and as scientifically-grounded futurists. Woven into their riveting, page-turning tale of a brilliant FBI agent's future hunt for a diabolically clever, tech-savvy criminal are important lessons about the extremely difficult issues that lie ahead surrounding the use of AI, robotics, augmented reality, and ubiquitous surveillance. It is a terrific read!”   

    —General David Petraeus (U.S. Army, Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, U.S. Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and former Director of the CIA  


    “Whether it’s a Jack Reacher novel or John Le Carre´spy drama, my litmus test of how good a book is, is the time to read. I started Burn-In Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend and finished it Monday...If you, like me, enjoy fast paced, well researched, tech adventure stories, you are going to devour Burn-In.”—Forbes  


    "...close to perfecting the genre of educational and informative techno-thriller."—Science 


    “A chilling depiction of a not-so-distant future.”—Vice-Motherboard 


    Burn-In is not only an enjoyable, science fiction thriller-crime procedural combination, it is also a well-researched and vetted primer on future war and future crime (and the blurring of those two environments). 

    Small Wars Journal 


    “Sci-fi remains one of the best ways to envision how new technology will shape the future, and "Burn-In" is the rare work of science fiction that has the solid grounding of nonfiction. The central conspiracy plot is Tom Clancy-level — in the best possible way — but what sets "Burn-In" apart is the deep research the authors used to build their near-future world, all of which is meticulously detailed in 26 pages of endnotes. The bottom line: If you want to understand how AI, robots and cyber terrorism could remake our world — and you don't want to wade through hundreds of pages of scientific papers —"Burn-In" is the summer read for you.”—Axios 


    Burn-In will do more for defense experts’ understanding of this brave new world with literature than a thousand non-fiction assessments would have.”—War On The Rocks 


    “The world of the novel becomes so alive for the reader that it creates a sense of unease. So many of the scenarios depicted in the book seem to be unfolding in real time...Burn-In is incredibly relevant and should be read as a cautionary tale about the pressing need for societies to pay close attention to the technology now being developed.”—Ploughshares 


    “For think-tankers and military and civilian officials, "Burn-In" offers a buffet of challenging questions and troubling future quandaries; for those who seek a good story, it has it all: robot sidekicks, bearded military veterans gone rogue, and a technological showdown of biblical proportions set in the nation's capital.”—Military.com 


    “The book, like the other noteworthy novel the two collaborated on, Ghost Fleet, meets its purpose skillfully. It is both lively, entertaining, and well-written as well as thought-provoking....[It] should be essential reading for anyone who looks out at the landscape today and sees clouds looming over the horizon.”—CIMSEC 


    “Timely and compelling as it is entertaining, Burn-In raises important issues and will provoke the necessary conversations that must happen about humanity and the future we want as we embrace technology at an ever-accelerating pace.”—The Cipher Brief 


    “A riveting technothriller that is not only highly entertaining but meticulously researched and presents a near-future state that is closer than you think.”—InMilitary  


    “It’s a story of human machine teaming, but like a buddy cop movie…It's a glimpse into the future.”—Defense One 


    “That fascinating place where things have a real chance of becoming real…This book is very much like a nerd’s dream. It’s fantastic. I love the concept.” –State Secrets 


    “It’s a very interesting book...It’s a future shock novel like Greg Bear’s ‘Slant,’ where things are happening faster and faster. But it’s also a military thriller. I compare it to Tom Clancy.”—Podside Picnic 


    “This book is so many things. It's a great detective story. It's fantastic thriller. It's a great human drama.” 

    —OODA Loop 


    “A visionary new form of storytelling—a rollercoaster ride of science fiction blended with science fact.” 

    —Damon Lindelof, writer/creator of Lost, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Watchmen 


    Burn-In is a white-knuckle adventure into our maximum probability future. I found surprises on every page, with each startlingly real depiction of new technology and its human impact. This near-future was crafted by experts, and it shows.” 

    —Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse 


    “Their seamless blend of detailed research and rapid-fire storytelling make Singer and Cole the perfect tour guides for our world’s future conflicts.” 

    —Max Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of World War Z and Devolution 


    I’ve never had such an enjoyable discomfort in reading a book before . . . Because Burn-In is fiction, but for how long?” 

    Foreign Policy 


    Burn-In is a thought-provoking and philosophical summer blockbuster; it is Michael Bay meets Stephen Hawking, and it is fantastic.” 

    Diplomatic Courier 


    “With their latest work, the authors energetically carry on the tradition of this genre’s giants including Isaac Asimov (I, Robot) and Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers), to name a few . . . Singer and Cole clearly understand how to make the unintelligible understandable, and in Burn-In they deliver the best of contemporary science fiction. Defense professionals, policy makers, and American citizens alike would do well to pick up a copy.” 

    —Strategic Studies Quarterly 


    “Captivating and oftentimes brilliant . . . something that Asimov would have immediately recognized and approved . . . the perfect blend of science fiction and human drama.” 

    —Steve Leonard, Senior Fellow, Modern War Institute at West Point 


    “It is hard for fiction to keep up with reality these days, but it can help us visualize the potential futures ahead of us in a meaningful way that non-fiction cannot. Burn-In brilliantly uses near-future tec...

  • excerpts
    Capitol Hill

    Washington, DC

    The man’s greasy red beard and braided Viking-style Mohawk had likely not been washed in a couple weeks, but the way that he cradled his AR-15 assault rifle made it clear he took care of what most mattered to him. And Special Agent Lara Keegan of the FBI’s Washington Field Office would have bet a month’s salary the Viking cleaned that weapon each and every day. 

        Side-eyeing him through the passenger-side window of a dated black Chevy Tahoe SUV, Keegan delicately folded the wax-paper-thin orange-tinted nanoplastic that she had laid out on the vehicle’s dashboard. It gave her something to do while they waited in traffic, plus it kept her hands visible for the Viking to see. 

        Everything from Louisiana Avenue on up to Union Station was at a standstill. A few drivers honked in frustration, but the rest of the vehicles idled without complaint. That was the easiest way to tell which had a human at the wheel; machines knew not to waste their energy on emotional inefficiency. 

        Keegan made sure the nanoplastic’s gold unidirectional filament was aligned with the crease, and then gently pulled on the next fold of the sheet. As she did, a blue minivan crept into the lane next to them, blocking her view of the Viking. The parents in the front seats were ignoring their two kids in the back trading punches over a suitcase wedged between them. She hoped for their sake it was the end, rather than the start, of a family vacation. 

        The minivan moved a foot forward and she got a better view of the Viking. The AR-15 was airbrushed a mottled gray and black. So he’d kitted it out for urban combat operations. And, yep, there it was. Peeking out from under the man’s red beard was a tactical throat microphone. It was the same kind once only used by special operations teams, designed to allow subvocal, hands-free communication during a firefight. Now anyone could buy one. 

        The next step in the build required Keegan to look down for just a microsecond. She carefully slid a needle-like spine inside the crease of the folded sheets. 

        “Hello, World,” she said quietly to herself, reciting the mantra of expectant computer programmers dating back before her grandparents’ day. 

        As she quickly looked back to the side, to ensure the Viking hadn’t moved, the folds in the orange structure opened up into an origami form of a robotic praying mantis, six tiny hairlike legs unfurling. It gave Keegan a tiny moment of satisfaction to know that she’d created the only thing that seemed to be moving this morning. 

        The SUV moved an entire foot, then braked hard enough to tip the mantis over. A freshly washed black four-door sharecar wedged itself into their lane mere inches ahead of a dirty red hatchback with cracked roof solar panels. It was just one tiny skirmish in the all-encompassing war between billions of lines of software code, each fighting to make society function smoothly, while simultaneously screwing over their market competitors. 

        “Bot fight coming,” said Keegan. “Two cars up.” 

        Another gleaming black car braked to let other vehicles pass. It was all part of the game. A vehicle might perch on the edge of the traffic line, not close enough to block the neighboring lane, but enough to set off the automated detection protocols, tricking its counterpart into stopping to creep around the perceived obstacle. Or it might be what the fleet of black cars were up to evidently. If two vehicles detected a rival company’s car behind them, they would set up a moving screen, driving in parallel at the lowest legal speed. 

        And Keegan was stuck behind it all, playing with a robot in the passenger seat, trying to ignore a newbie agent nervously tapping a steering wheel that required nothing of him. 

        “You should call their complaint number,” said Special Agent Aiden Griffin. “Or should I override and clear a path?” He’d been out of the FBI Academy a little over a year and still had that too-eager voice; that was why he had the backup-chauffeur job. 

        That was the only sacrifice the systems would make to the algorithmic gods of efficiency—the law enforcement vehicle protocol had been required for legalization of autonomous vehicles. At the simultaneous signals of a short-range radio wave and siren blast, the battles for speed and position would cease and all vehicles were required to pull to the side of the road. 

        “Don’t touch anything,” Keegan commanded. “You do that and ‘FBI seen on way to Union Station’ will be in the newsfeeds before we even make it a block,” she explained. 

        The drive out to the downtown train station and subway hub hadn’t been a planned operation, just a quick response to a flash alert that necessitated an FBI presence. It was likely a wild goose chase, but they had to assume whoever was behind it would be monitoring any activity of interest in the area. 

        Griff started picking at the sole of his shoe as the tension built, flicking out a small rock that had gotten lodged in one of the ridges. The nervous fixation annoyed Keegan because he wasn’t keeping his eye on their environment. 

        “I get the rest, but what’s the hat for?” she asked. 

        Each day Griff came to work as if dressed for a raid: sleek gray tactical pants and a too-tight black long-sleeved sensor-defeat shirt. He also wore a cumbersome tactical vest, which he was always trying to find a reason to wear. 

        “Keeps the sun off,” he said of the knit black watch cap he had pulled low, almost touching his eyebrows. 

        “Seriously? It’s a winter hat.” 

        “Sweat gets in my eyes otherwise.” 

        “Because you’re wearing the hat.” She reached back, grabbed a ballcap with “FBI” on the front, and offered it to him. “Here, this is actually what you need.” 

        “Nah, I’m good,” he said. 

        She tossed the hat back behind them. “Suit yourself,” she said, point made. 

        She picked up the origami robot off the dashboard and began to move it back and forth through the air, the way kids played with toy planes. Sweeping it slowly across the horizon, her eyes tracked what was happening in the distance behind it. 

        “Yep, right there. Just about your two o’clock. One coming down from the distro facility in the Post’s old printing plant in College Park.” Zooming the mantis back out, she aimed the triangular point of its head at the eight-rotor delivery drone flying above, an imaginary line running from her tiny robot to the larger one in the sky. 

        “As that thing flies over to deliver its beet juice or spare charger or whatever, it’s just soaking up data to mine and sell. That’s where the real money is. You set off the siren and it’ll flag us to anybody who’s buying that drone’s feed right now.” Keegan tipped the tiny ro...

Available Resources

  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328637239

  • ISBN-10: 1328637239

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $28.00

  • Publication Date: 05/26/2020

  • Carton Quantity: 12

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