Bringing Up Mike
by Mark Duncan
Askmar Publishing

"You can learn something useful from anybody if you listen closely enough."

Seventeen-year-old Joe Lawrence is a teen prodigy and the youngest person to receive a doctorate from Caltech. Intelligence aside, he is suspended from his Utah job because he's irresponsible, immature, and spends too much time with Mike, an artificial intelligent personal assistant that he created. Joe needs to move to an area "that is away from any university" where he might be recognized, if he wants to keep Mike running. Believing his relocation to Tennessee is a good choice, Joe has no idea that serendipitous people and events will bring him through a life-changing experience.

Penned in third-person narrative, the storyline to Duncan's sci-fi novel is so much more than artificial intelligence. Joe may be a genius, but he still has much to learn about human interactions since family tragedy has greatly affected his life. Living in Tennessee unexpectedly opens door to attending high school (which he never experienced), a new family and friends, a pet horse, and dating. While in learning mode, Joe also functions as parent to Mike, whose curiosity questions abstract thought, such as good versus evil and trust. Joe's learning experiences cover factual information ranging from Tennessee history and horses to issues such as freedom of speech and voting rights.

Duncan's characters include a well-developed and well-rounded cast of protagonists that he pulls from a variety of age groups, such as Joe's friends—George, Martha, Zeke, and especially Sue. Of course, Bring Up Mike is not without its antagonists. While a few rivals periodically poke their ugly head, the most prominent is Sly, who is constantly plotting ways to get back at Joe and his horse.

A steady mix of questions and answers, hardship and healing, as well as love and laughter, this is a fascinating and engaging read. Though it is earmarked for teens, adults will find it equally intriguing.

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