REVIEW: "Gideon", Russel Andrews (Peter Gethers/David Handler)
- BKGIDEON.RVW 20010105
"Gideon", Russel Andrews (Peter Gethers/David Handler), 1999,
%A Russel Andrews (Peter Gethers)
%A Russel Andrews (David Handler)
%C 101 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003
%I Ballantine/Fawcett/Columbine Books/Del Rey
%O http://www.randomhouse.com/BB BB@...
%P 466 p.
This is a serviceable thriller. Reasonably convoluted plot, although
not, perhaps, as surprising as the authors might think. And, as is
prone to happen with collaborations, there are minor, but annoying,
inconsistencies in the story and the characters.
(It's also just a little bit difficult to suspend disbelief about a
single hunter who can track people all over the South, especially when
the prey can swap driving and sleeping shifts, and the predator is
driving a large vehicle with a silly and identifiable logo on the
side. And then there is the dependence on the police being stupid
enough to miss things like huge differences in times of death, and
even wrong bodies.)
Take the technology, for instance. Communications technology, and
particularly the Internet, plays a large role in the book, but it
seems oddly unimportant. For one thing, most of it doesn't start
until half way through the narrative. For another, while few overt
mistakes are apparent (and some actual Web pages are used), no
fundamental understanding of the technology is evident.
Oddly, although the book is clearly based on recent concerns over
concentration of telecommunications ownership and Internet
communication is used a lot, the bad guys don't seem to care about
owning a piece of the networked world, concentrating on the
traditional media. Not that this is unrealistic. The top black hat,
rather obviously a combination of Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, is
only doing what most of his real life media baron colleagues are
doing: staying as far away from the anarchic Internet as possible, and
pretending it is a kind of television service with a great many
channels. But an Augmon On Line could have added a lot of creativity
and spice to the book.
In addition, the authors have a very US-centric view of international
corporations. True multinationals like the one in the book would
definitely have an easier way to get around the problem of a ban on
direct dealings with certain foreign countries.
Turning to satellite services, there are a few problems.
Geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) is certainly preferred for broadcast
satellites, but it is far from the only game in town. And it wouldn't
be necessary to have a gang of illiterate peasants build a high tech
launch facility in French Guiana: the European Space Agency has a very
nice one there, used quite regularly. In any case, even if you did
manage to build a site and launch a rocket in secrecy it wouldn't
remain a secret very long. Rockets are noisy, flashy things that can
be detected exceedingly easily. Various interested parties check up
on these things, not least because there are less than a dozen
unassigned GEO slots left, and nobody is going to stand idly by while
somebody pirates one.
Coming down to earth (if you'll pardon the expression), an 800 number
still has to be assigned to a given phone line, even if the fax
machine you want to use is installed in a computer. In any case, an
800 number is definitely not "non-area-specific," as Canadians and
other non-US residents know all too well. A cell phone is not
untraceable: as soon as it is turned on in a service area the position
is known to within a few miles, and, in urban areas, usually much
closer than that.
In these highly wired days it is odd that anyone who can track down an
email address for a non-acquaintance would be so lax as to endanger a
close friend by using an identifiable email account to send a highly
dangerous message. Even without getting into anonymous remailers,
surely such a person would know about the various Web based free email
services, which allow anyone to create an essentially untraceable
account within seconds.
But when they really want to hold secure communications, they turn to
instant messaging (IM). This is really laughable. First of all,
while journalists are now starting to work fairly heavily with the
Internet and while some will undoubtedly have greater skills in this
area than others, it simply isn't true that every large news
organization has a "hacker" on staff, particularly the mythical system
breakers who are supposed to be able to break into bank and credit
card databases at will. In addition, being able to crack a system is
no indication that you can secure one. As Gene Spafford points out,
being able to pour sugar into a gas tank teaches you nothing about
auto mechanics. Mostly, though, instant messaging just isn't very
reliable. Email is asynchronous, and generally gets to the recipient
eventually. IM requires both parties to be online, with clients
active, at the same time--and on the same system. This is one of the
reasons that most "by the hour" computer rental places wouldn't have
IM installed. The other reason is that instant messaging systems are
notoriously insecure. One popular IM system has had password, trojan,
and other security problems in a never ending stream ever since it
started. Another major player has deliberately opened buffer overflow
holes in its own client program--apparently in an attempt to avoid
compatibility with other systems. Using IM for secure communications
makes about as much sense as posting your confidential messages on
The final "get the baddies to incriminate themselves" denouement lacks
some detail. However, it makes up for many of the prior mistakes by
being creative, effective, using technology well, and being
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2001 BKGIDEON.RVW 20010105
====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
My mind not only wanders, sometimes it leaves completely.
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade