A gray-hat hacker may be the world’s only hope in stopping a virus that seems to be driving people mad in this sci-fi thriller.
Eddy Pending spends much of his time in his Los Angeles apartment interacting online with his hacker group, Ignominious. But the 28-year-old is happy to go outside when his attractive prosecutor neighbor, Gwen, needs help with a computer virus. Eddy, in spite of his skills, is surprised by the virus, which deletes itself after perceiving his software as a threat. Eddy captures a “tiny fragment” on a thumb drive and names it Geppetto, which appears in the virus’ code. Seeking information on Geppetto via Eddy’s online community ultimately leads to an anonymous, cryptic warning (“Beware the Men in Rose Colored Glasses”) and those dangerous fellows later kicking in his door. Eddy hides at Gwen’s apartment, which only makes both of them targets. Whoever is after them has frightening capabilities: A TV broadcast turns people into crazed mobs that are all apparently intent on killing Eddy and Gwen. Accordingly, trusting anyone is a near impossibility, but Eddy may have a solution: an antivirus of his own design that, with any luck, will counter mind-controlling Geppetto. Despite a tongue-in-cheek approach, Robertson’s (Chaos Theory, 2015, etc.) novel is a rich, engaging story. Eddy, for one, is an appealing protagonist; he’s socially awkward but with hero qualities, like devoting himself to a plan he believes could likely fail. Moreover, his gradually revealed past, including his severely depressed mother, adds sympathy. Jokes are funny without sidetracking the narrative; though Eddy and Gwen appear to be delusional paranoids, one character reassures them with the line “People in rubber rooms shouldn’t throw imaginary stones.” As the tension-ridden tale progresses, the virus becomes more widespread (with riots in major cities) while the villain and his plan come to light. Details of the diabolical plot, from motive to execution, are increasingly convoluted, but the story retains logic until its stellar ending.
A gleefully intricate computer tale with a satirical bent, swift pace, and modest hero.