In this debut techno-thriller, the first in a planned series, a hacker finds his life turned upside down as a mysterious company tries to recruit him.
Jacob Michaels, a hacker working as a tester for a New York information-security company called PT, Inc., is happy to be invited for a meeting at DEFCON, an annual hacker convention in Las Vegas. However, the invite comes in the form of an airline ticket with Jacob’s full name and address—information that he usually keeps concealed. It soon becomes clear that Jacob is under cyberattack, as people start receiving emails he didn’t send, and even the keycard to his room gets rejected. Meanwhile, a strange man named Otto is trying to hire Jacob—while also monitoring Jacob without his knowledge. Breakfield and Burkey’s novel is a thriller for the 21st century. Instead of drug or money mules, it features “information mules” who steal others’ codes and work for organizations such as Dteam, a Russian group that pilfers funds electronically. Jacob gradually learns about Otto’s business and its possible link to Jacob’s mother, who was run down by a car; at the same time, he becomes close with fellow hacker Petra, who may be on Otto’s payroll. Later, the focus shifts toward Dteam, run by a man named Grigory, and a Chinese school for cyberwarfare run by Lt. Col. Ling Po. Grigory and Po are remarkable villains, but the new subplots make Jacob a supporting character in his own story. On the plus side, Buzz, Jacob’s rich-kid friend who paid his way through MIT, faces so many obstacles that most readers won’t notice that the protagonist is sitting on the sidelines. Some exclamations, such as “Oh, poop!” give the story the feel of a YA novel, but the story’s sex scenes are markedly adult, in a romance-novel way: “[H]e pulled her closer and kissed her with such passion she immediately heated up.”
A complex thriller with a hacker-centric plot and polished technological descriptions that may attract new fans.