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Cover for Burn-In


A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution

P. W. Singer, August Cole


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (5/25/2020)
Paperback (5/25/2021)


An FBI agent hunts a new kind of terrorist through a Washington, DC, of the future in this groundbreaking book - at once a gripping technothriller and a fact-based tour of tomorrow

America is on the brink of a revolution, one both technological and political. The science fiction of AI and robotics has finally come true, but millions are angry and fearful that the future has left them behind.

After narrowly stopping a bombing at Washington’s Union Station, FBI Special Agent Lara Keegan receives a new assignment: to field-test an advanced police robot. As a series of shocking catastrophes unfolds, the two find themselves investigating a conspiracy whose mastermind is using cutting-edge tech to rip the nation apart. To stop this new breed of terrorist, their only hope is to forge a new type of partnership.

Burn-In is especially chilling because it is something more than a pulse-pounding read: every tech, trend, and scene is drawn from real world research on the ways that our politics, our economy, and even our family lives will soon be transformed. Blending a techno-thriller’s excitement with nonfiction’s insight, Singer and Cole illuminate the darkest corners of the world soon to come.

Praise For Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution

Burn-In is a fantastic, compelling, and authoritative look into the future—a future that is equal parts amazing and terrifying. With Burn-In, Peter Singer and August Cole establish themselves both as masters of the techno-thriller and as scientifically-grounded futurists. Woven into their riveting, page-turning tale of a brilliant FBI agent's future hunt for a diabolically clever, tech-savvy criminal are important lessons about the extremely difficult issues that lie ahead surrounding the use of AI, robotics, augmented reality, and ubiquitous surveillance. It is a terrific read!”  
—General David Petraeus (U.S. Army, Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, U.S. Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and former Director of the CIA 

“Whether it’s a Jack Reacher novel or John Le Carre´spy drama, my litmus test of how good a book is, is the time to read. I started Burn-In Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend and finished it Monday...If you, like me, enjoy fast paced, well researched, tech adventure stories, you are going to devour Burn-In.”—Forbes

"...close to perfecting the genre of educational and informative techno-thriller."—Science

“A chilling depiction of a not-so-distant future.”—Vice-Motherboard

Burn-In is not only an enjoyable, science fiction thriller-crime procedural combination, it is also a well-researched and vetted primer on future war and future crime (and the blurring of those two environments).
Small Wars Journal

“Sci-fi remains one of the best ways to envision how new technology will shape the future, and "Burn-In" is the rare work of science fiction that has the solid grounding of nonfiction. The central conspiracy plot is Tom Clancy-level — in the best possible way — but what sets "Burn-In" apart is the deep research the authors used to build their near-future world, all of which is meticulously detailed in 26 pages of endnotes. The bottom line: If you want to understand how AI, robots and cyber terrorism could remake our world — and you don't want to wade through hundreds of pages of scientific papers —"Burn-In" is the summer read for you.”—Axios

Burn-In will do more for defense experts’ understanding of this brave new world with literature than a thousand non-fiction assessments would have.”—War On The Rocks

“The world of the novel becomes so alive for the reader that it creates a sense of unease. So many of the scenarios depicted in the book seem to be unfolding in real time...Burn-In is incredibly relevant and should be read as a cautionary tale about the pressing need for societies to pay close attention to the technology now being developed.”—Ploughshares

“For think-tankers and military and civilian officials, "Burn-In" offers a buffet of challenging questions and troubling future quandaries; for those who seek a good story, it has it all: robot sidekicks, bearded military veterans gone rogue, and a technological showdown of biblical proportions set in the nation's capital.”—

“The book, like the other noteworthy novel the two collaborated on, Ghost Fleet, meets its purpose skillfully. It is both lively, entertaining, and well-written as well as thought-provoking....[It] should be essential reading for anyone who looks out at the landscape today and sees clouds looming over the horizon.”—CIMSEC

“Timely and compelling as it is entertaining, Burn-In raises important issues and will provoke the necessary conversations that must happen about humanity and the future we want as we embrace technology at an ever-accelerating pace.”—The Cipher Brief

“A riveting technothriller that is not only highly entertaining but meticulously researched and presents a near-future state that is closer than you think.”—InMilitary

“It’s a story of human machine teaming, but like a buddy cop movie…It's a glimpse into the future.”—Defense One

“That fascinating place where things have a real chance of becoming real…This book is very much like a nerd’s dream. It’s fantastic. I love the concept.” –State Secrets

“It’s a very interesting book...It’s a future shock novel like Greg Bear’s ‘Slant,’ where things are happening faster and faster. But it’s also a military thriller. I compare it to Tom Clancy.”—Podside Picnic

“This book is so many things. It's a great detective story. It's fantastic thriller. It's a great human drama.”

“A visionary new form of storytelling—a rollercoaster ride of science fiction blended with science fact.”
—Damon Lindelof, writer/creator of Lost, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Watchmen
Burn-In is a white-knuckle adventure into our maximum probability future. I found surprises on every page, with each startlingly real depiction of new technology and its human impact. This near-future was crafted by experts, and it shows.”
—Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse
“Their seamless blend of detailed research and rapid-fire storytelling make Singer and Cole the perfect tour guides for our world’s future conflicts.”
—Max Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of World War Z and Devolution
I’ve never had such an enjoyable discomfort in reading a book before . . . Because Burn-In is fiction, but for how long?”
Foreign Policy

Burn-In is a thought-provoking and philosophical summer blockbuster; it is Michael Bay meets Stephen Hawking, and it is fantastic.”
Diplomatic Courier

“With their latest work, the authors energetically carry on the tradition of this genre’s giants including Isaac Asimov (I, Robot) and Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers), to name a few . . . Singer and Cole clearly understand how to make the unintelligible understandable, and in Burn-In they deliver the best of contemporary science fiction. Defense professionals, policy makers, and American citizens alike would do well to pick up a copy.”
—Strategic Studies Quarterly

“Captivating and oftentimes brilliant . . . something that Asimov would have immediately recognized and approved . . . the perfect blend of science fiction and human drama.”
—Steve Leonard, Senior Fellow, Modern War Institute at West Point

“It is hard for fiction to keep up with reality these days, but it can help us visualize the potential futures ahead of us in a meaningful way that non-fiction cannot. Burn-In brilliantly uses near-future technology to ponder pressing matters of tech, politics, and the human relationship with our increasingly intelligent machines. Read it and you’ll not only be entertained, but better able to understand the flood of AI headlines without fear or fantasy. Burn-In is the rare techno-thriller that takes tech seriously!”
—Garry Kasparov, Former World Chess Champion, author of Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins

“A compulsively readable story that also brilliantly explains how our near-future world will look and work. Singer and Cole have woven a gripping detective yarn about a hunt for the terrorists of tomorrow, using the best research from the brightest minds of today.”
—Peter Bergen, New York Times bestselling author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad
“Timely, prescient, and meticulously researched, Burn-In tells a deeply humane and nuanced story about our changing relationship with AI and warns of dangers to our free society all too few have started to grapple with. This is the near-future thriller you’ve been looking for: a captivating story filled with moving characters as well as profound insights.”
—Ken Liu, author of The Grace of Kings and The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
“Wrapped in this propulsive thriller is a fascinating analysis of our possible near-future, where promises of a techno-utopia veer into surveillance-state nightmare. Cole and Singer brilliantly and terrifyingly imagine a realistic intersection of terrorism, technology, and policing.”
—Phil Klay, National Book Award–winning author of Redeployment

“Perceptive and exciting near-future thriller . . . drawing on plentiful research (and heavily footnoted), the novel is strikingly well constructed. The authors are aiming for maximum believability, and they succeed: this story feels really feels like it could happen. Its characters are genuinely full-bodied and readers will totally buy into [this world].”

“This perceptive near-future techno-thriller from Singer and Cole (Ghost Fleet) warns of the unintended consequences of rapid technologic change . . . For all the emphasis on high-tech fears, the authors tell a very human story.”
Publishers Weekly

“A near-future SF thriller starring an FBI agent and one damn smart robot . . . lots of clever details . . . a great premise for a series . . . just keep those suckers away from Putin.”
Kirkus Reviews

“August Cole and Peter Singer have done it again, with a searing look at the intersection of advanced technology, brutal domestic politics, and an utterly uncertain geopolitical future. This is a book that charts perfectly the dangerous course into which we sail—and, similar to medieval sailing charts, on the distant margins it says clearly: ‘there be monsters here.’ Buckle up for Burn-In.”
—Admiral James Stavridis (ret.), former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO
Burn-In will wake you up and shake you up. Just as they did in Ghost Fleet, Singer and Cole give us a vivid look-ahead into the near-future. Like the best science fiction, Burn-In is a human story, with great characters and a terrific plot that unfolds in a ‘just-beyond-tomorrow’ world of emerging technology. I whipped through the book, mesmerized by its glimpse into a future where intelligence—human, augmented, and artificial—all blend together in a continuous battle to understand what’s the real truth. So much to think about after reading it!”
—Admiral John Richardson (ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations
“Don’t miss Burn-In! Singer and Cole have combined their expert knowledge of imminent technologies to create a riveting day-after-tomorrow thriller exploring our increasingly uneasy alliance with smart machines and the networked world that enables them. Burn-In captures the imagination, even as it takes a hard look at the challenges ahead.”
—Linda Nagata, author of The Red trilogy and The Last Good Man
“I loved Burn-In so much that I've already read it twice. This suspenseful, forward-looking novel prophesizes titanic disruptions soon to come from the marriage of humanity and technology. Most of all, it provides a clear-eyed view of both the highs and lows of humanity's rapid plunge into a world of AI, robotics, and other advanced tech, and the impact that will have on families, society, politics and security. Singer and Cole project the logical outcomes of today’s rapidly evolving technological revolution in ways that make Burn-In both heartening and terrifying—sometimes at the same time. This book will definitely make you think.”
—Lt. General Edward Cardon (ret.), Former Commander, U.S. Army Cyber Command
“Singer and Cole have done it again. Exciting, interesting, and disturbing, Burn-In shows how the inevitable evolution of AI and intelligent machines can and will change our world. There will be both good and bad in this onrushing future, and our entire society—not just our political leaders—will need to understand and confront it. So enjoy this great read, but at the same time consider its implications both for our daily lives and our humanity.”
—General Robert Neller (USMC, ret.), 37th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps
“Another winner from Singer and Cole. Burn-In is a great story and a well written mystery/adventure novel, but most importantly it provides a view of the world in which we will soon be living, where data, networks, remote sensing, autonomy, robotics, and AI are totally integrated into every aspect of our day to day lives. It explores that nexus between people and technology—our greatest challenge in living in this new world—and makes you stop and think, even as you become immersed in a great book.”
—Admiral Michael S. Rogers (ret), Former Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Former Director, National Security Agency 
“Through the eyes of its heroine, Agent Lara Keegan, Burn In is a page-turning story that challenges us to consider the social and societal implications of the game-changing AI technologies that are just over the horizon, and how we as people relate to our mechanical creations. Authors Singer and Cole have once again brought the future into our present, bringing us the book we need to start wrapping our minds around the issues that will dominate our near future.”
Kathleen J. McInnis, author of The Heart of War: Misadventures in the Pentagon
“The only thing America has to fear is America itself. Cole and Singer are among the few willing to engage with the futuristic storytelling potential afforded by contemporary reality.”
—Madeline Ashby, author of Company Town and co-author of How to Future 
Burn-In is a high octane (and carefully researched!) exploration of what could happen if America loses its edge at the forefront of the AI revolution.”
—Jamie Metzl, futurist and bestselling author of Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity
“A speculative work about a dark tomorrow, Burn-In brims with the vibrancy of real, layered human conflict. P.W. Singer and August Cole understand that stories of moral tribulation transcend space and time, and imbue this bold, splendid story with it. There's more life and imagination in this novel about the robot future than most books of today will ever manage.”
—Matt Gallagher, author of Empire City and Youngblood
Burn-In is a profound look into an all too believable future, brilliantly weaving together a moving narrative that challenges readers with its mix of robots, AI, and politics. The action is stirring, the characters are all too relatable, but it’s the questions about humanity that will leave their mark, burning their way into your brain and leaving you breathlessly wanting more.”
—Peter Tieryas, author of Mecha Samurai Empire 

“Meet Agent Lara Keegan, a new kind of hero who captures your attention in a thriller you won’t want to put down.”
—Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of New York Times best-sellers The Dressmaker of Khair Khana and Ashley’s War

"Well written, with clear, punchy prose, reminiscent of good Tom Clancy."
—The Forum

"...while recognizable literary influences are palpable, like Isaac Asimov and William Gibson...The text isn’t fully fiction nor non-fiction, but an informative and entertaining blend of both."

“In our world of fake news and misinformation, fact and fiction blend together in a disturbingly seamless fashion. Where Singer and Cole’s book is different is that it harnesses real-life trends in technology and weaves them into a fictitious and fast-paced storyline to warn us about the perils of our future."
—Times Higher Education Review

Mariner Books, 9781328637239, 432pp.

Publication Date: May 26, 2020

About the Author

P. W. SINGER is an expert on twenty-first-century warfare. His award-winning nonfiction books include the New York Times bestseller Wired for War.

AUGUST COLE is a writer and analyst specializing in national security issues and a former defense industry reporter for the Wall Street Journal.