Debut British thriller whose originality turns on infinitudes of computer surrealism.
Cybersex in private chat rooms leads to ever-stronger pages and, about halfway through, to a long walk through Weirdsville. Jason has been happy with roommate Amy Sinclair, 24, whom he married without benefit of clergy. But Amy’s crying jags during sex, while in abeyance for the past year, now erupt more often. Self-absorbed Jason gets into cybersex with Claire Warner in the Internet’s Melanie Room, and when Amy departs, leaving a note saying she’ll return, Jason blames himself. After four months, he’s certain she’s been raped and murdered, as indeed so has Claire. Jason finds some rape sites on the Internet and, making up the screen name “Amy17,” baits a hook for the rapist, Kareem. Jason knows the woodland jogging ritual of a girl named Charlie and suckers Kareem into attacking her. But Charlie knows martial arts, creams Kareem, and, after a chase, Jason kills him for not revealing Amy’s whereabouts. Within a day, Jason has killed two more men and now has three deaths on his hands. Meanwhile, his childhood hacker buddy Graham, unhappily married to Helen, helps Jason break into a secret cyber file that puts Jason on the trail leading to those second and third deaths. But this secret file has some kind of supervirus attached to it that knocks out half the servers in America and is on its way to destroying the Internet. Jason’s tracking leads him to Dennison, a nut who believes words are as alive as cells or animals and who has saved a gigantic library of lost words and works he downloads from the Internet, echoing Jorge Luis Borges’s story “The Library of Babel.” From this point on, the story repeats many of its own passages and sweeps off into a crazed whirlwind of gutsy plotting.
Fearless! But we never did decipher the title.