SPECULATIVE FICTION:  Mia Serenity Turner, a twenty-something rich kid with too much time and money, and too little affection from a father who simply cannot be bothered. Nothing in Mia’s world is quite right, but it isn’t a problem a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive cannot alleviate—at least for a little while.  And Peanut, Mia’s pet Pomeranian, doesn’t mind either. Being toted about in her over-sized handbag is always an adventure. Mia’s life plans are mapped out only as far as the next V.E.T. visit, and that happens to be today.  But when the automated taxicab she heralds misses the exit, and the one after that and the one after that, Mia’s droll life is set on a crash course to reality. Mia’s abduction forces long buried fears to roil to the surface. And it also forces her to find a courage she never knew she possessed.

“Driven” by Fred Alvrez, a story of a desperate kidnapping utilizing a technology on the cusp of taking the world by storm, has the seeds of a techno-thriller without quite breaking the event horizon. The concept is fresh and intriguing, with its marathon cross-country abduction trapped in an unmanned taxicab being freakishly claustrophobic. The characters, however, seen to remain emotionally unavailable, and the dialogue slips into cliché at times. The derivative characters make this thriller’s suspenseful moments too few and far between. The story’s culmination is where it excels. It is where Mia’s personal triumph shines through and her humanity glistens as brightly as her victory over self-doubt and fear. It reminds the reader the human spirit will always prevail no matter where technology drives us.

Kimberly Gunvaldson