Dale Harwin,

The Genesis Backup

Review posted to NetGalley, January 24, 2023

Speculative fiction

Global espionage focused on futuristic neural-link AI technology.

Professor William Ell is having a bad week. First his father dies, leaving him a cryptic black book and an impossible gemstone, and then his quiet academic life is blown apart by an international conspiracy involving AI technology.


Ell’s quest for answers about his inheritance takes him to a dizzying variety of locations, including Phoenix, London, Hong Kong, and Dubai, traveling across three continents using nearly every mode of modern transportation. Along the way, Ell picks up allies old and new, with no choice but to rely on them if he hopes to survive the many kidnappings and attacks inflicted on him by an unknown enemy who seems to track his every move. An FBI unit chasing a master criminal adds still more complexity to the plot when Ell comes under suspicion.


The reader too must solve some mysteries, starting at page 1: Why does the book open in 2042, then come back to the present day? Who or what is the entity, briefly seen in chapter 1, that has been waiting thousands of years for the right moment to begin intervening directly? What is the actual purpose of CyberSim Labs? “The Genesis Backup” is the first volume of a trilogy, so presumably some of the questions left tantalizingly unanswered at the end of this novel will be addressed by later books.


Fast paced and told from the point of view of dozens of characters, some of whom appear for only a single scene before disappearing again, this imaginative novel barely allows the reader to draw a breath before rocketing onward again. Exploring the plot in detail would inevitably lead to spoilers, so suffice it to say that the AI technology in this novel is akin to Skynet in the “Terminator” series of films—a dangerous combination of power and amorality.


Ably translated from the original German, “The Genesis Backup” combines global espionage with a cyber element in a frighteningly plausible adventure story.