In this debut thriller, an engineer investigates a plane crash only to discover a global conspiracy to hack digital satellite television systems that may involve a woman from his past.
It’s 1993 in San Diego. Steve Barton
is a semiretired engineer who left his job at Video Secure, a leader in digital
satellite TV technology, upon growing frustrated that the company was at the
mercy of a ruthless management team looking for a quick payout. A wealthy
divorcé who spends his days driving his collection of vintage cars, writing
angry letters to the editor, and occasionally piloting small planes, Steve’s
quiet life is thrown upside down when he witnesses a plane crash into a
mysterious compound in the remote area of Fernbrook, California. Upon
investigating the mishap, Steve discovers evidence of a high-level—and
illegal—operation to hack into digital satellite TV systems. He also discovers
that Alice Chang, a former Video Secure colleague who disappeared abruptly, may
have been involved. Steve longs to know what happened to Alice, an intriguing
and sharply intelligent woman who, for him, remains the one who got away. He
channels his energy into investigating the crash and the leads left behind at
the scene, including an encrypted message that may or may not be from Alice.
The more he uncovers about the scheme and Alice’s role in it, the more danger
he finds himself in. Gilberg is fluent in early ’90s technobabble, though less
tech-savvy readers may find it hard to understand. Fortunately, the action and
romance that the author weaves around his complicated conspiracy is enjoyable
enough that readers should be enthralled even if they don’t entirely comprehend
what’s happening on the hacking side. It helps that Steve, Alice, and their
scene-stealing friend, Jim Schmidt, a “not-so-reformed ex-hippy with a Ph.D. in
computer science from UCSD,” are all incredibly distinct characters with enough
personality quirks to be realistic without veering into caricature. They ground
the more sensational side of the story in reality.
A fast-paced technology tale with enough international
intrigue and luxurious details to rival a James Bond adventure.