Homeland Security agents rush to prevent large-scale cyberwarfare in this thriller.
Think of it as a version of 24. There may be no literal time bombs to defuse, but the countdown is on anyway to stop an online worm labeled Chrysalide from growing wings. Given that it has already forced the shutdown of Los Angeles’ water system and that the Islamic Crusade, a potent terrorist group with connections to Saudi royalty, has given the U.S. two days to pull troops out of Muslim countries or else, time is of the essence. Enter Mahaz Al-Dossari, an exceptionally skilled computer network security specialist and a full professor at UCLA. Could he be the story’s Jack Bauer and save the day? Or will that honor go to another tech expert, Ken Oakey, who is working closely with the feds? Ken recognizes the high stakes (“Criminals, Ken likes to say, only have to get it right once in a while. White hats like Ken have to get it right one hundred percent of the time. That’s twenty-four hours a day, holidays included”). Mahaz has problems brewing on the homefront as well: due to his own roving eye, his marriage of 18 years to the lovely and long-suffering Juliana is in trouble. Juliana, for her part, spends most of her time ferrying their 17-year-old son, Omar, in and out of the hospital due to hydrocephalus, a damaging brain condition. Their teen daughter, Leila, is caught up in her own world, and Juliana worries that her husband will use their two children as pawns if she files for divorce. Lipinski’s (Bloodlines, 2015) crisp writing style expertly sets up suspense along multiple parallel fronts: there’s the cyberattack, of course, and readers also become invested in the fates of all the characters, including the members of the Al-Dossari family. The tale’s strengths include the realistic portrayals of the players, particularly the teens. The identity of the cybervillain, simply referred to as G0d_of_Internet, becomes apparent early on, while the novel’s intense pace comes at a cost: the culprit’s path to terrorism remains underexplored. Nevertheless, Lipinski has an impressive command of her plotlines, and the story barrels along at a fast clip to its somewhat preordained but enjoyable conclusion.
A deadly and exhilarating game of cat and mouse that has all the makings of an engaging series about fighting terrorists.