A group’s noble effort to validate astrology entails the rather illegal procurement of millions of people’s private information in this second installment of a series.
Rufus is a sheep farmer by trade, but his real passion is astrology. He’s even written a book, in which his discussion of unified religions is supported by astrological science—including the concept that everyone’s life is guided by heavenly bodies. Rufus’ ideas earn him an invite to the Data Collection Group, which hopes to authenticate astrology by linking real-life data with horoscope predictions. This requires a colossal amount of information, as specific as possible. Hacking’s the best option, and Rufus—along with his nephew Robert and Robert’s hacker pals, Petey and Matthew—has already gotten his hands on the 1960-2010 American census data. But the “money people,” including Walter and his wife, Erica, want more, from data brokers to social media. Walter’s soon-to-open, wholly legitimate Institute for Humanistic Innovation will give the DCG covert access to a supercomputer to handle the mass of material. Though it’s a large-scale invasion of privacy, the group’s purpose is philanthropic, with no plans to steal anyone’s identity. Some in the DCG, however, have a hidden agenda that most, including Rufus, may oppose. While Jaegers’ (Astrologer’s Apprentice, 2016) series opener was primarily an introduction to astrological theories, his latest tale focuses on espionage. One scheme for pilfering data, for example, begins with a faked cyberattack, which, to avoid detection, puts Petey and Matthew in two different states with encrypted laptops. This maintains a constant threat of arrest or incarceration, as well as some humor: Rufus acknowledges DCG members in public with a surreptitious nod or wink. The story’s unhurried but absorbing, dishing out character dilemmas (Petey may give up a college diploma for DCG) and spiritual insight from Rufus: “Each man’s soul is an integral part of a collective universal soul.” Jaegers ends the novel by leaving the door wide open for another.
A wealth of white-hat hacking gives this enjoyable sequel a boost.