Ace, Nov 2004, 6.99, 320 pp.
The Gods decreed that no one is allowed to enter the Forbidden Zones or the Water of Bey, but Tom Eliot is not like any of the other inhabitants of the small farming community of Marinwood. He escapes into the Zones and the Water whenever he can as an individualist in a sea of conformity. He comes to the attention of the Gods who treat him and his family like a contagious infection that needs quarantine and destruction. They kill the Eliot household, but Tom was not there so he goes on the run once he learns what happened.
Tom meets the mystical hermit Magus, who explains that the Gods are actually artificial intelligences; they developed so quickly they took control from their human creators by demonstrating the ability to destroy cities like San Francisco rather easily. The western region of the United States was sealed off because of runaway nanotech reactions and the AI's knowledge that it is easier to control the area by isolating it. The AIs are fearful of Tom because with his genetic makeup, he, with the proper training, has the ability to destroy their heart (the data center in their stronghold). Tom begins his learning process as his strategic objective is to defeat the AIs.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner