Love me or leave me, darling.
“You died at the tender age of thirty-six,” Dave says, his mouth agape, his coffee-stained teeth and brackish tongue dominating my perspective.
“Your death was caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs. Suicide.”
As his mouth retreats, the rest of his face returns to view.
“You should be leading the Burned-Out-Too-Soon Star Tour,” he says, “not yapping about stray dogs.”
Whereas most people come to Hollywood for the Stars’ Home Tours, Dave is here for a different reason. He’s come for a very specific Murder Mystery Tour. And Marilyn Monroe is his tour guide.
Yes, she’s been dead for over 60 years. Yes, she’s an app on his phone. And yes, this murder isn’t on the regular tour. And when Enhanced is finished, neither Dave nor Marilyn will be the same as when they started…
Ryan Hyatt has swiftly been establishing himself as one of the best new authors of dystopian fiction. Drawing on a Rod Serling-worthy quality of storytelling, he keeps managing to take our normal world and shift it just enough for us to look at it differently. This time, it’s through the eyes of an AI tour-guide modeled after Marilyn Monroe and armed with things the average AI tour guide doesn’t have. In this story, she is the one enhanced, rather than us. And even as smart and connected as she is, she’s still bound to Dave as he moves deeper into a murder more personal to him.
At a brisk 8,500 words, Enhanced feels like it could be a teaser to a larger work. The potential is there to veer wildly off into a Chinatown pastiche or a Humphrey Bogart noir, and in Hyatt’s talented hands, either one would be a trip worth taking. But with this piece, Hyatt has crafted a brief and oddly sweet and gentle tale about what it means to be human, even when filtered through an AI interface. It’s still got the benchmarks of Hyatt’s best dystopian works of discomfort, but here the future is more optimistic.
Even if the narrator is enhanced code.
He dons his shades and tucks me into his back pocket.
“Fine,” I say, my cheeks pressed against his rear. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or relieved that he violated me, but unlike him, I’m ready to discuss how I feel.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this case as long as you acknowledge something.”
“Are you suggesting we become partners?”
“No. Partners are equals. You need me.”
“I need what you can do.”
“We’ll see about that.”
VERDICT: FIVE out of FIVE Hollywood Walk of Fame Stars
Creative Team: Ryan Hyatt (author)
Publisher: Mindfield Entertainment
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