An endlessly convoluted thriller about scams and counterscams in the fool's-gold world of dot-com.
Appropriately enough, it is on April Fool's Day that James Vincent Hanley finally grows tired of being honest and Artemis-5.com is born—or at least the idea of it. Hanley, a stockbroker specializing in Internet start-ups, knows two incontrovertible facts that in combination are personally demoralizing: (1) he's smarter than almost everybody else, and (2) he's grossly underpaid. As a $300,000-a-year wage-slave at Schumann-Dallas, the financial giant, he's been spending much of his time despising his life and resenting the mental midgets he sees making it big—launching companies at $10 a share that hit $100 in the blink of an insider's eye. Carefully, skillfully, diabolically, then, he begins preparing the scenario to show Wall Streeters how the game should really be played. Before you can say Ponzi scheme, Artemis-5, a company with "no assets, no products, no plans, and no future," has ratcheted its paper worth to seven billion. Moreover, since the stock keeps going up and investors keep piling on, it's hard to find anyone unhappy about it—except Jubal Thurgen, assistant director of enforcement for the SEC. To Thurgen, it's bedrock principle that companies ought not to get rich on "vaporware," on the illusion of substance, so that to him Artemis-5 is egregiously fraudulent and Hanley nothing more than a jumped-up snake-oil salesman. Determinedly, Thurgen goes after Hanley; dexterously, Hanley fends him off. Both are superbrilliant, each wholeheartedly committed to the other's destruction. And, in a violent denouement that puts a literal spin on "make a killing," the antagonists go at each other, guns blazing.
As always with Gruenfeld (The Expert, 1998, etc.), there's plot aplenty here, though the suspense of the paper-profit chase is fatally undercut by paper-thin characters.