Journalist/speechwriter Morrison (Bandwidth, 2010) buries a wonderful premise inside chapters and chapters of exposition.
Did you know that by the time signals from one of the 8,000 satellites circling the Earth reach the planet, they carry only a tenth of the energy of a Christmas-tree light? Well, Morrison, who’s got lots of insider dope about financial markets to share as well, does know, and he sees no reason why a tiny cadre of terrorists shouldn’t tamper with an unrelated satellite to put the hex on its signals in pleasingly disastrous ways. Before he can get to this payoff, though, he laboriously traces the circumstances that lead to the launch of the satellite dubbed Cody. Eternal Dutch graduate student Peter Van Weert, struck by the limited access of half the human race to meaningful computer access, dashes off an idea to his tutor about using municipal water pipes to bring broadband to everyone who’s thirsty. Entrepreneur Phillipe Timmermans soon gets wind of this idea and thinks there’s money in it. So do Lyrical CEO Aaron Cannondale, the world’s sixth-richest man, and his friend Terry Vaughn, the banking guru of Teestone Financial. Once big money gets involved, the new venture, which Peter calls Cheyenne, takes off like a rocket. The plot, however, remains grounded until a pair of disgruntled Afghans who’ve been lurking in the background slip a couple of software patches unnoticed into Cody during its pre-launch programming sequence, turning it into one nasty satellite. For better or worse, Cody’s reign of error is as brief as its financial-shenanigans back story is extended, and all too soon after it goes rogue, Uncle Sam’s finest are on hand to clean up the mess.
Beneath the pasteboard villains and the wooden dialogue lurks the suspicion that Morrison, unable to decide whether the real target of his exposé should be international terrorism or home-grown avarice, has decided to slap them together in a single sandwich. Not this time.