The government and Silicon Valley unite to fend off a major cyberterrorism attack in this fast-paced thriller.
In an opening that recalls the neutralization of electric power in the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), cyberterrorists have shut down highly secure networks in San Francisco, leaving panicked residents without electricity and communication systems. A group called New Tomorrow takes responsibility and threatens a worse attack if President Anston doesn’t announce the cancellation of the country’s missile-defense system during his upcoming State of the Union address. Orion Project, Homeland Security’s massive counterterrorism effort, failed to prevent the worm-driven takeover of the City by the Bay’s power grid. Anston and his team are “in trouble on three sides: the terrorists pushing from the front, the media ramping up the rhetoric…andthe public pushing for answers and action.” Enter Kirsten Lockhart, who prior to the attack had been plucked from Silicon Valley to work on Orion. Many involved in Orion are threatened by her drive, but nobody can debate her brains, creativity, and lithe body that moves with the alluring “smoothness of a cat.” Post-attack, Lockhart’s superiors—who know her psychological profile reads “Risk taker, lives on the edge”—think she might lead them to a software genius who has gone underground and may be a conduit to the terrorists. Lockhart’sformer romantic partner, Maj. Brett Logan, is assigned to shadow Lockhart, and a scheme to boomerang the terrorists’ plan back at them before the president’s address is developed. McFarlin’s 30 years in the tech industry give him the background to write knowingly about software successes and failures, and the timeliness of the warnings to safeguard code are chillingly spot-on in light of recent malware infiltrations on security systems for major retailers. The action moves quickly, and the characters are believably flawed, challenged and strong; however, there’s a surplus of characters, several of whom don’t advance the narrative. Readers might be better off keeping a “who’s who” list.
An engaging, complex cyberthriller from a writer who knows the territory.