I’ve been looking for a good cyber-crime story. I’m still looking.
Russinovich works in the computing world and has been involved in investigating or uncovering things like rootkits — something that comes up repeatedly in the novel. I was therefore expecting plenty of technical details, cat-and-mouse games in the command line, brilliant minds unraveling secrets.
Actually, there’s none of that. Instead you get a fairly simple thriller story translated into layman’s terms. That you could live with, except for it’s other failings.
Although released in 2011, it feels like a novel from a bygone age. The impossibly good-looking protagonists are surrounded by an array of cardboard cut-out characters, both physically and emotionally. Women are not only relegated to minor roles but objectified and I can’t think of a character who wasn’t a paper-thin stereotype.
What technical details we do get are laughably overblown, with everything from an airliner, a nuclear power station, an oil tanker and air traffic control being infected, albeit by a string of different viruses. Go read up on Stuxnet and you’ll see how hard it is to attack just one industrial device, nevermind a whole range.
Ironically, as I was listening to this a large malware attack hit a number of countries, causing chaos in UK hospitals. Aside from some cancelled operations and a few ransom payments, not much else happened though.
Johnny Heller does an adequate job reading it, but he’s not helped by the adaptation. The book includes print-outs of code and email headers, which means you end up listening to him laboriously read out a series of random letters and numbers, or repeating to and from addresses (“from firstname.lastname@example.org, to email@example.com”) — hardly thrilling listening.
Even if you like thrillers this is one to skip.