REVIEW: "The Sundering", Walter Jon Williams
- BKSNDRNG.RVW 20040629
"The Sundering", Walter Jon Williams, 2004, 0-380-82021-8
%A Walter Jon Williams
%C 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
%I HarperCollins/Basic Books/Torch
%O 800-242-7737 fax: 212-207-7433 information@...
%P 436 p.
%T "The Sundering"
Once upon a time, a long, long time from now (and far away) there was
a great space war.
Given that it's a long time from now, it's rather bemusing that
technology hasn't advanced very far, aside from discovering
traversable wormholes and producing antimatter in commercial
quantities. This isn't entirely the fault of human beings, since a
mysterious and powerful race has come along and generally interfered
with social and technological development, although they now seem to
have stepped out for an extinction.
But you can forgive a lot to a book which understands that space
battles, even those confined to a mere solar system, take place over
days, and that the ability to withstand crushing accelerations for
long periods of time is what makes the difference.
Faster than light communications would certainly help, but that may be
too much to ask from the universe. Smarter computers would
*definitely* help, and should have been possible.
The use and operation of computers in this brave new world is not
clearly spelled out, but they seem to run on scripts, rather than
machine code. The mysterious and powerful race have ensured that all
computers are registered and known, thus fulfilling Microsoft's dreams
for Palladium. (Apparently no Linux hackers, or other amateur
computer enthusiasts, have survived.) Serious cryptography seems to
have been forgotten: there is one reference to the fact that nobody
can use cryptography since everyone has powerful computers and can
therefore break any ciphers. This indicates that everyone has
forgotten that, when computer power increases, you can just increase
the key length.
The fact that computers are known and registered is used to prove the
need for low-tech communications solutions when the bad guys move in
and take over the seats of power. However, a few pages later, our
merry band of counter-revolutionaries is happily using communications
devices that seem to have a lot of computer-related functions (even
real-time broadcasts seem to be "store and forward").
Our underground heroine manages to become a fully-fledged intruder in
the space of twenty-four hours. Along the way she does learn
something that I wish every security professional knew: when you have
functional security, you'd better have an assurance activity as well.
(Of course, if anyone had put "defence in depth" in place, she'd have
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKSNDRNG.RVW 20040629
====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them
that Benjamin Franklin said it first.
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade