Okay hackerz, crackerz and phreaks It's time to get away from the keyboard and grab yourself a Mountain Dew and use that buzz to stay up reading a great cyber-punk sci-fi mystery thriller.
James R. Strickland has written a great book that is in the not so distant future and gives us a bit of a warning about where technology could take us. In this dystopian view of the future of cyberspace, Strickland has given us not only a great mystery thriller but has created the ultimate anti-heroine. Many action novels have heroes that remind us of Bruce, Arnold or even Keanu, but in this book the heroine is a wheelchair bound, bi-sexual, Shakespeare quoting, computer geek whose online name is "Shroud."
Not only the great character but the world has seen a major political change in which North America has been through a civil war and exists as several different smaller countries. The great part of this novel is that none of it is beyond belief. Strickland, being a former IT professional, writes with such fervor and talent that as a reader you get so lost in the story of the world he created that there is no time to question nor any reason to question the reality of the story.
"Shroud" works as a Network Security Engineer for Omni-Mart, a huge commercial conglomerate. Her and her team monitor the company's network by "jacking in" to the system. This is done by plugging the network directly into the brains of the engineers. Thus creating a super high-speed access to the real-time network and any hackers trying to break in. On a routine day the entire day crew is killed by a mysterious hacker that is able to hack in to the "unhackable" jacks of the security team, including "Shroud." "Shroud" is the only survivor and seeks revenge on the hacker, but Omni-Mart says they are going to outsource the investigation, telling "Shroud" to take a vacation.
"Shroud" begins her own investigation and finds the "hacker." As with any good mystery, the path to discovery leads to many great characters becoming involved. This investigation also leads to a very dark region of corporate America (or what's left of America).
The action begins from page one and never lets up. So be prepared to stay up all night with this one. A good energy drink or the favorite of all computer geeks, Mountain Dew, will do the trick.
I think my favorite aspect of the book is the multifaceted character of "Shroud." While she may be cold as ice for the work environment, she's quick to quote Shakespeare or Frank Herbert (okay one quote from Herbert, but I love Frank Herbert so it stuck with me. When she meets the "hacker" the surprise not only is in the discovery of who it is...but the actions taken to fight the final battle. Great writing gets you lost in this cyber-world.