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A page turner with very little substance.
on 14 September 2012
This could have been a very good book, unfortunately, it never meets those expectations.
I think the most frustrating aspect of this book is that the author only ever feels one step ahead of the reader in terms of knowledge. There's nothing necessarily wrong with someone approaching a topic they initially know nothing about; on the contrary, when written with wit and intelligence, an author thrown into the deep end of an entirely new world can be incredibly entertaining - Jon Ronson springs to mind - however, this doesn't come anywhere near that standard.
When explaining concepts, it feels like he only vaguely understood the meaning of crackers and hackers a few minutes before putting pen to paper; he seems completely out of his depth. I know it's supposed to be a book about a man, through investigative journalism, discovering and exploring the dark underworld of cybercrime, but it feels like maybe someone who has a lot more background in this field should be writing it.
I know he has written books like this in the past, but his previous experience does not come across; it constantly feels like I'm reading the thoughts of someone who spent 20 minutes on wikipedia finding out the technical aspects of the topic, and then spent the rest of his time interviewing random people on the internet for info - which the author himself admits almost certainly will be largely exaggerated accounts - on the people who carried out these crimes. Much of this personal information I found myself doubting how he came to know as well, as some of it is so minor yet precise I seriously can't imagine anyone recalling it 10-20 years later.
On the whole, the author certainly has a gift for making you turn the page - albeit without being particularly well-written, a la Dan Brown - but it's a deeply unfulfilling book, and this is from someone who didn't really know anything about these things beforehand; for anyone who knew about hackers and crackers it must have been even worse - almost cringe-worthy - like having an A-level physics student explaining to Stephen Hawking about the nature of time.
I'm surprised at the level of positive praise for this, I would seriously consider buying another book on what could have been an interesting area.