Tonight, Manning, Inc. will introduce an artificial intelligence, MAVIS, that surpasses all others by leaps and bounds: The Girlfriend Experience. This morning, Charlotte Manning, Alexander’s wife of eight years, told him she wants a divorce.
So Xander, as he’s known, is feeling a bit unmoored that evening when he meets Chloe Armstrong at the post-reveal reception. He’s immediately poleaxed by her combination of sensuality and naïveté, which is when he jumps on the train to his doom.
Beginning on the chauffeured ride home, Chloe assaults Xander with her raw sexuality, intoxicating him to the point of obsession. Having been fixated on MAVIS for years and intent on a deal with wealthy investor Stockard Mazlow, Xander suddenly loses interest to the point that his primary shareholder, Scott, as well as his best friend, Ben, who works for the company, attempt to shake some sense into him, to no avail. No matter how many times they point out Chloe’s youth and how she’s distracting the company president from the launch of a billion-dollar game changer, Xander ignores them, because Chloe has become his entire world.
Meanwhile, as she negotiates a rocky family life and studies she hates, Chloe clings to the man she sees as her way out of the shadow of the Freeway Five in East Chrome Valley. She uses all her abilities to pull Xander into her web, while Manning, Inc. is testing a product so incendiary that, when she witnesses a crucial investor test, tells Xander, “You’ve killed us all.”
As all hell breaks loose and Xander dives deeper into delusion, Chrome Valley is also breaking apart, reeling from a school shooting and suicide bombing coinciding with an important event at Manning, Inc. Death is in the air — blood, bodies, and madness —common in Chrome Valley, paths which Mackay has taken readers down before, but never have those byways been so disturbing. The all-consuming passion of Xander, the calculated cruelty of Chloe, the hypersexual madness MAVIS induces, are utterly unsettling.
Andrew Mackay has never shied away from illuminating the darkest corners of humanity, and he relentlessly shines that klieg light in the shocking work that is Simple Machines.