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A bit too much XMen
on 27 March 2012
I picked this book up on the Kindle daily deal because a) I am a bit geeky and b) it sounded like an interesting foray into the world of cyber crime.
As the blurb went "This dramatic cybercrime story travels from the Ukraine to the United States (and all parts in between) to explore the next frontier in terrorism"
Well, it doesn't really travel anywhere except a few office blocks in IT companies in the US but Ukranian keyboards do get a mention and a virtual finger is pointed now and then to foreign powers.
It's not a bad book - but I'm not sure what it's meant to be.
It reads more like a very staid journalist reporting on fairly esoteric events in the online world. As a geek myself I found a lot of the technical explanations unnecessary and taking up far too much of the book. On the flip side I'm not sure if for the non-technical they were equally superfluous (but for a different reason).
The story of the Conficker worm is interesting but could be told in half the time. Maybe even a quarter.
The characters are so thinly drawn that I could never recall who was who, let alone picture them in my mind, but in many ways the cast list were just "cardboard programmers" there to bounce the technical details off.
The constant reference to X-Men was grating and, to me, belittled the individuals involved.
A bunch of highly technical people, trying to fight back against a very real online threat, really deserved a bit more respect than being drawn as puerile comic book heroes. It's the very perception of nerdiness that meant nobody listened to them in the first place.
Despite all of this, the book has some fascinating moments - particularly in relation to the reactions of the US authorities.
I'm not referring to the rather clumsy pot shots at the Federal bodies but the moment when one of the 'Cabal' accurately explains the Government view of the risk. It's a moment of clarity when the reader is suddenly taken out of the technical circle and is invited to see the events from a different perspective. As a section it stands in contrast to the rest of the novels slavish belief in the rightness of the 'white hats' (the good guys).