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REVIEW: "Acts of the Apostles", John F. X. Sundman

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKACTAPT.RVW 20000516 Acts of the Apostles , John F. X. Sundman, 1999, 1-929752-13-X, U$15.00 %A John F. X. (Compton) Sundman john@islanderis.net %C
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2000
      BKACTAPT.RVW 20000516

      "Acts of the Apostles", John F. X. Sundman, 1999, 1-929752-13-X,
      %A John F. X. (Compton) Sundman john@...
      %C P.O. Box 2641, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
      %D 1999
      %G 1-929752-13-X
      %I Rosalita Associates
      %O U$15.00 www.rosalitaassociates.com mail@...
      %P 359 p.
      %T "Acts of the Apostles"

      Is Gulf War Syndrome the result of a massive experiment in the
      nanotechnological modification of human DNA? The answer, according to
      Sundman's book, is a resounding "Wouldn't you like to know?" The
      central thesis of the book is that technology is incompatible with
      freedom, although you'll only know this if you read the dust jacket.

      Basically, this is your common potboiler-thriller, with technical add-
      ons. Sundman has a fine hand with humorous dialogue, and the plot
      twists, where they don't rely on implausible technologies, are nicely
      kinked. There are so many megalomaniacs floating around that you'll
      think you've wondered into Redmond. He does, however, tend to
      telegraph deeply hidden secrets too long in advance.

      It's also a little difficult to keep your confidence in a secret
      conspiracy so powerful that it can find you anywhere, and can get into
      your residence, hotel room, or domicile within hours of your arrival
      anywhere, but can't catch you.

      The technology rather spoils what might otherwise be a good story.
      This is despite the fact that the author obviously considers himself a
      technical insider. The book contains many computer industry
      references, and the knowledgeable can amuse themselves (for a while)
      by playing "Spot the (Real) Company."

      Like many another before him, Sundman tries to get a little tougher
      than science will allow. The characters party with 200 proof alcohol,
      a substance which does exist, but which, because of the chemicals
      needed to keep it clear of water, is a bit toxic. If you are faking a
      suicide, the use of a silencer is a bit of a problem: silencers aren't
      as common as Saturday night specials, and suicides usually aren't
      *that* considerate about ensuring that they don't startle people.

      The mistakes in the computer area range from "yes-buts" to howlers.
      Yes, many Web browsers have some kind of Usenet news capability built
      in, but most techies will use the more appropriate newsreader. Hash
      algorithms are one-way encryption, since the "address space" of the
      final code is much smaller than the possible number of original
      messages. (A code that uses a book as a reference is neither
      encryption nor a hash code, it's a variation on a one-time pad.) Ken
      Thompson's proposed trap door relies on a pretty long lead time, and
      Ken never did create it, he just made a speech with a "what-if"
      scenario. And we have the ever popular self-destructing file that
      will erase itself if anyone copies it or even looks at it. (Nobody's
      ever heard of a write-protect tab?) This one is a bit more ...
      violent than most.

      Ultimately, though, this is a book with a Point, and the Point is
      confusing. Any sufficiently advanced technology becomes an entity
      unto itself, with aims and goals that are beyond our ken. Why? How?
      Who knows. Sundman seems to believe it, and that should be good
      enough for us.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKACTAPT.RVW 20000516

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      ( ) electronic hug (patent pending, Gillian Dickenscheid)
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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