by James L. Halperin
Review by Abby Goldsmith, 2001
In the future, according to author James L. Halperin, world crime can be wiped out by a 100% accurate lie detector. Citizens of the world are required to pass lie detector tests in order to gain a driver's license, have children, move to a different state, get hired, and so on. However, the very inventor of this amazing lie detector has committed a horrible crime, and must hide his criminal secret from the world. (And to say anything more on the matter would be a plot spoiler.)
It's a good, thought-provoking premise. Unfortunately, the characters are poorly developed, and there are so many plot-holes that I was unable to suspend my disbelief. Good beginning, good ending. Really, really slow middle.
Call me a pessimist, but I find it extremely hard to believe that Earth will have a functional World Government within the next fifty years, or many of the other things that Halperin predicts. Can you see 60% of the current American public voting for "the Swift And Sure Anti-Crime Bill," which guarantees immediate execution for any person who commits three felonies? Too many innocents would be killed in the pre-Truth Machine era. I doubt many people would support this unless criminals could be detected with absolute 100% certainty.
As for the Truth Machine itself...there was not enough evidence in the book to support this foolproof machine. People would come up with a way to fool it. That's what hackers are best at. Humanity consists largely of innovators; we improve upon other people's ideas and inventions. Some desperate people would start training themselves to believe their own lies as truth, thereby tricking the machines. Programmers would tamper with the machines and then sell their results to rich criminals. And computers have a looooooong way to go before they reach a level even close to flawless operation...if they ever will.
Even if you are willing to suspend your disbelief to the heights which this book demands, there isn't much to like. It's philosophy with a thin veneer of plot thrown over it.