F2F by Phillip Finch


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Gripping hi-tech computer thriller, smartly up-to-date and yet, at the same time, already dated by recent films like The Net and Michael Crichton's Disclosure. Finch (Paradise Junction, 1993, etc.), though, keeps up a fast pace and pours out an easily grasped flood of details as a San Francisco nut--motivated by little more than his inflated respect for the unimaginably powerful force (""this magnificent animal"") of the computer, trivialized by mere gameplayers and chatsters of the Internet--threatens computer folk less bright than himself. Christian Willem Hartmundt, a.k.a. Corwin Sturmer, has devised a devilishly complex game (TRY ME) that only true computer wizards can beat, and through it he sucks in victims. Masquerading as Snowflake, he first attracts people through postings in the Verba Interchange on the Net. Victim number one is found with his head skinned and a spike hole through his breast. The second is drenched with gasoline and burned alive in a garage. A woman is split open with a machete, and so on--all of which acts are videotaped by the villain. Meanwhile, Ellis Hoile (named after gamesmaster Hoyle?), a wizard known on Verba as Avatar, matches Snowflake and his ghastly game of TRY ME. Eillis has been recently divorced by filmmaker Kate Lavin, whom Snowflake has on his list of five or six cowlike future quarry. Also included is computer whiz Stephen Leviste, an adolescent whom Snowflake kidnaps and thrusts into a real version of his virtual reality maze. By now the visually juiced up reader knows he's in movie script, not just turning pages in a thriller. Ellis calls in the police, but Snowflake escapes and kidnaps Kate for a final game of TRY ME. Enter here to be F2F (face to face) with a champion trickster of the Net.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Bantam