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