Devil's Plaything

Devil's Plaything

by Matt Richtel

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“Smart, captivating, sophisticated; I can’t say enough about this deftly told story.”
—Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Emperor’s Tomb

“A brilliant thriller that defies genre and scope; a twisted blend of Michael Crichton and Alfred Hitchcock.”
—James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of Altar of Eden

A Pulitzer Prize winner for Journalism in 2010, New York Times science reporter Matt Richtel delivers a phenomenal “neuro-tech” thriller about a dark and insidious plot to reengineer the human brain. Devil’s Plaything is smart, fast, and terrifyingly plausible—a page-turner of the first order from the critically acclaimed author of Hooked, whom author David Liss (The Devil’s Company) calls, “The absolute master of crafting amazing fiction around cutting edge science.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061999697
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/31/2011
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 258,737
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter and bestselling nonfiction and mystery author. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Meredith, a neurologist, and their two children. In his spare time, he plays tennis and piano and writes (not very good) songs. Visit him online at

What People are Saying About This

David Liss

“With Devil’s Plaything, Matt Richtel confirms what his first novel suggested: that he’s the absolute master of crafting amazing fiction around cutting edge science. Richtel’s singular gift is his ability to convey the human components of technological change. This is an utterly absorbing read — gripping, exciting, touching and terrifying. ”

Steve Berry

“This thriller pushes the envelope to the edge and beyond in exciting and unique ways. Talk about a buddy story: How about a seasoned investigator and his octogenarian grandmother rushing against a ticking clock? Smart, captivating, sophisticated, I can’t say enough about this deftly-told story.”

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Devil's Plaything 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
This is one of the oddest "thrillers" I have ever read and it does make the reader think of the effects of computers and "multitasking." The author starts with a quote about the inverse proportion of computer memory doubling every year while the instances of human memory lost through disease also doubling every year. Is there a connection? Lane Idle is an elderly woman who interacts with a computer which is a type of artificial intelligence that can interpret and store human memories for future generations. The computer seems to flash butterflies on the screen while asking Lane to continue with various stories of her past. During the interactions the computer will ask questions about how she heard about Pearl Harbor, what her husband wore to her wedding and the type of car her father drove. Lane's grandson Nate is a professional blogger/reporter who has upset a bunch of police by exposing a scandal involving porto potties. Nate takes his grandmother to a dental appointment and crazy things start to happen like Nate and Lane getting shot at when they go to the park. The dentist office is also very strange with a very nasty receptionist. Later Nate wants to visit his grandmother in her senior care center and has some issues with the staff. Nate thinks his grandmother is being mistreated in the center and has to "kidnap" her from the center. It is difficult for Nate because his grandmother is not lucid most times and he wants to take her to her neurogist for further evaluation. All the while Nate must make a meeting with a mysterious person with the initials L.P., who gave him a password protected thumb drive that Nate had earlier guessed the password to. Throughout the book the reader expects a lot of action and tension. That is sparse here. What makes this book work well is that the author only sends out tidbits to the reader as to what is actually going on with Lane and the computer and Nate doesn't ever know who can be trusted and who are the bad guys. This is an excellent psychological thriller that raises a lot of questions as to whether our technology today is ruining our minds.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A voracious reader for pleasure, I ask a few things from a book. Were the characters believable? Do I like the characters? Can I escape into the story? This book delivered. I found the "hero" and his grandmother interesting and well formed. The plot certainly had me thinking about my own elderly relatives and my own use of today's technology. In a word I found this book enjoyable. Certainly worth the read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an overreach by the author. The concept is a good one, but his execution waan't that good.
dearheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nate Idle had gone through med school but found the idea of being a doctor too stifling for his adventurous spirit. He¿d dropped out and currently works for a medical blog site but his real passion is uncovering the bigger medical stories. He¿s close to his grandmother whose dementia is getting worse at a rapid rate that surprisingly isn¿t affecting her physical abilities. The two are shot at when he takes her for an outing at Gold Gate Park, followed by a phone call from the attacker telling him to drop it. This is immediately followed up by the receipt of a package containing an encrypted flash drive which gets his blood flowing. Something grandma has buried in her mind is at the heart of a conspiracy, as is a company that put computers with artificial intelligence in nursing homes to allow the residents to record their memories for their descendants. Listening to Lane, Nate¿s grandmother, record her memories is at first cute as she interacts with the artificial intelligent software, but turns scary. Both Nate and Lane are in danger and a number of attempts are made on their lives. It¿s difficult to determine who to trust.I fell in love with Lane Idle as well as Nate¿s relationship with her. Anyone who has dealt with a friend or relative with memory problems will connect with the story. I didn¿t find it quite as ¿captivating¿ and ¿absorbing¿ as the quotes from other authors on the front and back covers would leave you to believe. I actually put the book down twice to read other books. Parts of the story are flat out boring as Nate (his name is also spelled as Nat in the book) spends a lot of time with his grandmother in a car trying to uncover clues and dodging assassination attempts.Nate¿s internal evaluation of signs of disease or conditions in others was interesting, although somewhat annoying as for a while he seemed to be doing it constantly. It does turn out to be useful. And explaining what¿s happening in the brain as Nate understands what the conspiracy is about is shared with us in an easy to understand manner.The entire premise seems to be totally plausible and will make the reader think about their own use of computers and electronics and how they might be affecting them. And that¿s the scariest aspect of all.Reviewed for Amazon Vine Voice.
suetu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An idle mind is the devil¿s playthingI first met Nat Idle when he appeared in Matt Richtel¿s debut novel, Hooked. At the time, he won me over completely. It wasn¿t merely that he was a likable, charming guy, it was that he exhibited my very favorite characteristic in a hero¿fallibility. He wasn¿t a superman. He was just an average guy doing the best he could under extraordinary circumstances. Nat narrates, ¿As a tough guy, I¿m way out of my league; I¿m a pen-wielding freelance writer, not James Bond, or James Dean; maybe James Taylor.¿And, at long last, he¿s back. Let me start by saying that you don¿t need to have read Hooked before reading Devil¿s Plaything. Each book stands alone just fine. In this latest thriller, Nat has a buddy, and it¿s not who you¿d expect. His cohort in this misadventure is his elderly grandmother, Lane, with whom he has always been close. Lane, alas, has taken a turn for the worse. She is suffering dementia, but in recent weeks her decline has been precipitous. Nat realizes he really must spend more time with her, and it is on an outing to Golden Gate Park that the action begins. While enjoying a leisurely sunset stroll, suddenly shots ring out, and Nat and Lane appear to be the targets. Well, Nat appears to be. Not everyone appreciates his occasional forays into investigative journalism. What could anyone have against a sweet octogenarian? What indeed? As this complex tale unfolds, Richtel seeds the book with any number of suspicious characters and red herrings. What is the deal with the high-strung manager of Lane¿s assisted living facility? What is the secret from back in WWII that his grandmother has been keeping all these years? Who is ¿the blue man¿? Why is Lane afraid of visiting the dentist? What is the story behind the Human Memory Crusade in which she¿s been participating? And what is going on on Nat¿s side of this mystery¿ What is his boss up to? Who is the mysterious investor Nat dubs ¿G.I. Chuck¿? Who has delivered an encrypted thumb drive to him? Why? What does it say? These are a lot of questions, and if the novel has a flaw, it¿s just the sheer business of the plot. There are so many potential bad guys that, like Nat, you won¿t know where to look next for answers. You will share some of his frustration, confusion, and paranoia. He asks, ¿Does the thumb drive have anything to do with the attack in the park and Grandma¿s recent ramblings? Or is it coincidental, unrelated, some kind of joke?¿The pleasures of the novel, however, more than make up for any flaws. For starters, it¿s a darn good mystery. I couldn¿t unravel it on my own, and I seem to figure these things out all too often. It was nice being challenged. The story being told here is different; and as with his first novel, the plot veers off in unexpected directions, keeping readers on their toes. The relationship at the center of this novel isn¿t typical, and it has a lot of heart. Both Nat and Lane are richly-drawn and appealing characters. And in addition to, you know, the fear and paranoia, there¿s a lot of humor leavening the proceedings. San Francisco, where I live and the novel is set, takes more than a few pot shots: ¿I almost laugh at the idea of our nearly quintessential San Francisco death: gunned down by the driver of an environmentally friendly car.¿ ¿In San Francisco, you can get grief for carrying an obsolete gadget without a permit.¿ ¿The collective angst of several dozen drivers already frustrated by life¿s deep unfairness¿traffic, the Bay Area cost of living, the fact that they don¿t yet own an iPad¿¿ Nat¿s a witty guy, and it¿s a lot of fun taking up space inside his head. He¿s also a canny observer of the times we live in, and I have to credit the smart writing of his creator and counterpart, author Richtel. Matt Richtel not only shares a very similar name as his protagonist, but also the same day job¿though he¿s a considerably more successful journalist, having wo
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: My big toe is exposed and my companion lost in the world beyond.Nat Idle is a freelance writer spending most of his time writing blog posts with medical angles. He's got more on his mind than his next post, however. His beloved grandmother, Lane, now in a nursing home, has been having problems with her memory, but those problems have been snowballing. Nat doesn't want to accept the inevitable, and he vows to spend more time with her. He's in Golden Gate Park when he makes that promise, and minutes later he's almost gunned down.It was no random attack, and as he pursues the truth through a warren of technology and paranoia, he learns that this may all be linked to something called the Human Memory Crusade-- something his grandmother has been participating in at the nursing home. Realizing that-- whether she knows it or not-- Lane holds the key to the mystery, Nat smuggles her out of the nursing home, and they go on the run to find the answers.Although this is the second book in which the character of Nat Idle appears, it stands completely on its own. There were no annoying references to past events that made me wonder what had happened before.My favorite character in the book was Nat's grandmother, Lane, but once she is taken away from him, the book almost completely loses its momentum. With the real threat gone, there are glimpses of the evil behind the Human Memory Crusade, but there is no real solution or an attempt at one in sight. The first half of the book was excellent; the last half limped home.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good characters. Interesting plot with strange but believable twists. I thought the ending was a bit rushed and somewhat anticlimactic. Not sure about the accuracy of the science but it makes a good storyline.
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I had a hard time getting into the first few chapters of this book but it was worth sticking with it. I grew to love Grandma Lane and Nat. The plot is interesting in theory and could be explored a little deeper. I am looking forward to the sequel and the possibilty the author has the grow with experience.
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Odd, engaging, suspenseful, and very good
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Love the book best book