Life in the Caspian Republic has taught Agent Nikolai South two rules. Trust No One. And work just hard enough not to make enemies.
Here, in the last sanctuary for the dying embers of the human race in a world run by artificial intelligence, if you stray from the path—your life is forfeit. But when a Party propagandist is killed—and is discovered as a “machine”—he’s given a new mission: chaperone the widow, Lily, who has arrived to claim her husband’s remains.
But when South sees that she, the first “machine” ever allowed into the country, bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, he’s thrown into a maelstrom of betrayal, murder, and conspiracy that may bring down the Republic for good.
WHEN THE SPARROW FALLS illuminates authoritarianism, complicity, and identity in the digital age, in a page turning, darkly-funny, frightening and touching story that recalls Philip K. Dick, John le Carré and Kurt Vonnegut in equal measure.
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Sharpson's provocative debut, adapted from his play The Caspian Sea, takes readers to the early 23rd-century Caspian Republic, an authoritarian nation-state reminiscent of Cold War era Eastern Europe, where the remnants of pure humanity hold out against an artificial intelligence-controlled world. When a popular Caspian journalist dies and is discovered to have been an AI in disguise, his estranged AI wife, Lily, is dispatched from the outside world to identify the body. Nikolai South, a long-serving, unambitious State Security agent for the Republic is assigned as Lily's liaison, only to be rocked by her uncanny resemblance to his own late wife. During their time together, South must determine if Lily is involved in a plan to smuggle digitally converted human consciousnesses out of the Republic and along the way, he becomes caught between warring intelligence agencies and learns dark truths about the Republic's origins. Sharpson skillfully evokes an atmosphere of paranoia, duplicity, and secrecy, while using the conflict between humans and AIs to probe themes of self-awareness, identity, and memory. As Sharpson pushes the narrative beyond South's present and into an increasingly messy future, he showcases the untenable nature of the Caspian Republic and its corrupt framework. The result is a thoughtful sci-fi thriller that skillfully blends a retro spy aesthetic with future technology.