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REVIEW: "Second Skin", Eric V. Lustbader

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKSCDSKN.RVW 20000301 Second Skin , Eric V. Lustbader, 1995, 0-671-70349-8 %A Eric V. Lustbader %C 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 %D
    Message 1 of 1 , May 26, 2000
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      BKSCDSKN.RVW 20000301

      "Second Skin", Eric V. Lustbader, 1995, 0-671-70349-8
      %A Eric V. Lustbader
      %C 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
      %D 1995
      %G 0-671-70349-8
      %I Pocket Books
      %O 212-373-8500 +1-212-698-7541 www.simonsays.com
      %P 518 p.
      %T "Second Skin"

      It's been a while since I last reviewed one of Lustbader's books (cf.
      BKWHTNNJ.RVW). I'm not sure why he has started to include technology
      in the mix, since he started out with a fairly straight (you should
      pardon the expression) sex-and-martial-arts-violence type of action
      thriller, and has now imported a large fantasy element with the
      purported mystical roots behind various eastern fighting schools.
      (I'm also surprised that Hollywood has not yet discovered Lustbader
      and the Nicholas Linnear series: with the addition of the computer
      stuff the later books now have a kind of "Bruce Lee and Poltergeist
      meet The Matrix" feel.)

      The other reason that I am startled by the increasing centrality of
      technology to the plots is that the author knows nothing about it at
      all. The hero is supposed to: at one point he pulls an all-nighter to
      fix a technical glitch that has eluded his large staff of computer
      wizards. (Doesn't say much for the wizards.) But, while the story
      turns on the battle for CyberNet, the communications giant that is
      going to take over Southeast Asia, Lustbader obviously has a serious
      misunderstanding of the basics of networking. The book, probably
      wisely, does not provide too much detail, but what there is gives us
      plenty of ammunition.

      Of seeming importance is the new "vid-byte" technology that allows for
      video conferencing over the net and also over wireless links. Now, of
      course, a byte of video is just like any other byte, as the saying
      goes, it's all just ones and zeroes. (Unless, of course, he is
      talking about "vid-bites," being somehow analogous to sound-bites, but
      the limited length thus implied doesn't seem to be congruent with the
      lengthy conversations that take place.) In any case, the CDMA2000
      standard appears to be proposing short range speeds that are close to
      allowing full-feed NTSC TV bandwidth, so the new "Kami" technology
      just isn't terribly advanced.

      CyberNet appears to be a version of the Internet, with mixed data,
      voice, and video traffic but with higher bandwidth. Of course, the
      Internet protocols, and particularly the new IPv6, can be scaled to
      any amount of bandwidth, so why a proprietary technology is needed is
      not too clear. Nevertheless, the fact of the central "data" of this
      net, contained in what is apparently one file, being stolen is vitally
      important. (Except that it isn't. Yes it is. No it isn't. The book
      can't make up its mind.) In any case, as many companies have found to
      their sorrow, proprietary networking just does not seem to be able to
      compete with open standards. After all, the purpose of a net is to
      allow communications, and if nobody can connect to it, it isn't very
      useful.

      This net also seems to be quite centralized. While that works
      admirably for Fedex, in this day and age it is a recipe for digital
      disaster. Nevertheless, we have important plot elements relying on
      the interception of communications which, in turn, would be dependent
      upon all packets flowing through a central node. (We also have a
      system being sold to businesses on the basis of privacy and
      confidentiality where nobody has ever heard of encryption. Oh, you
      have the central encryption algorithm? Well, if you can crack it
      knowing only that, it isn't very good, is it? But then, I suppose a
      proprietary algorithm would be more likely to contain holes ...) We
      also have a proposal to eavesdrop on everyone using a multinational
      network from one central location. This sounds more like Usenet news
      than email.

      Oh, and, direct from its smash hit in "White Ninja," Lustbader again
      brings us the amazing, non-reproducing, operating without being
      invoked, data-eating virus.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKSCDSKN.RVW 20000301

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
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      I have never been hurt by anything I didn't say. - Calvin Coolidge
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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