APPLE CRUNCH by Frederic Vincent Huber


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Loaded with implausible twists and aggressively ingratiating characters, this tale of theft-and-blackmail-by-computer is weak on suspense, somewhat stronger on irascible I-hate-New-York charm. Huber divides his attention pretty equally between bad guys and good guys--and though this constantly shifting focus rules out much emotional involvement, all the players come equipped with sympathy-grabbing motivations. The not-so-bad bad guys: suburbia-stifled computer expert Robert Wilson, who blames N.Y.C. (and its computers) for the Bronx tenement death of his aged parents; and Wilson's semi-reluctant sidekick Wimpie Begelman, a pool-playing computer-whiz who needs money to save his aged, ailing mother from death in a Brooklyn tenement. The Wilson/Begelman plan? They steal $100,000 from the city (via computer) and use the money to buy their own minicomputer; they then play practical jokes on the city (bogus payroll checks, haywire traffic lights, etc.); and finally--thanks to secret computer codes which Wilson has seduced from a boozy city programmer--they ""steal"" and hold for ransom ($20 million) some Education Budget data which N.Y. must have in order to get a $200 million federal loan. By this time, however, the good guys have arrived: investigator Marvin Klein from the Division of Computer Security, who's oppressed by city life; and grumpy NYPD Detective Joe Copeley, who's all at sea with computers--until he has to take care of his under-loved, ten-year-old granddaughter Susie. Susie, you see, just happens to be a computer prodigy. . . who just happens to recognize Begelman's computer-pseudonym ""Zarf"". . . which, implausibly, Begelman signed when doing those city-computer hijinks. So, thanks to this string of coincidences, the good guys track clown the bad guys--just in time to save them from some really bad guys. . . . Don't look for much credibility or tension here, then: Huber's not in the same computer-suspense class with John McNeil (The Consultant) or Bruce Jackson (The Programmer). But--with the crusty-grandpa sentiment and a comic-caper fadeout--this is a genial enough diversion for those with a taste for programs and printouts.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1981
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row