Security Breach

by Humphrey Hawksley
Reviewed date: 2009 Oct 23
Rating: 1
464 pages
Previously published as The History Book
cover art

I don't think Humphrey Hawksley understands what a novel is. A novel is a written work that tells a story with words. A novel is not a description of a movie that exists in the mind of the author. Security Breach is a written diarrhea of scene descriptions, sometimes down to the particular camera angles and panning.

Hawksley's main character is a caricature and her actions are unrelated to any realistic motivations. But that's OK, because she's nothing more than a vehicle to introduce us to the conspiracy. She is Kat Polinski, a tough-as-nails computer hacker who was caught, then recruited to work for the Department of Homeland Security with a promise that she'll earn an early release. She's twenty-four years old. When her sister Suzy is murdered in Britain, she tracks down the killer. In the process she uncovers a global conspiracy to control the world's energy market. It's all tied up in the international Coalition for Peace and Security (CPS) agreement that the United States, Britain, Russia, and the rest of the world are going to sign during the World Cup soccer match.

Wait, what? Why is the schedule for CPS based on the starting time of the soccer match? That doesn't make sense. Oh I forgot, Hawksley doesn't understand how fiction works.

Another thing Hawksley doesn't understand is computers. His depiction of firewalls and hacking is more akin to black magic than to computers in the real world. You see, Kat has special hacking software on a SIM card, which automatically detects and penetrates firewalls. Her magic software can do stuff like neutralize a self-deleting Powerpoint document. What? Since when can a slideshow data file delete itself? Since Hawksley started writing! That's also about the time that cellphones started unlocking wall safes and opening car doors. OK, that last one is at least plausible, if automakers suddenly forgot about pseudo-random rolling code security that is already standard in all keyless entry remotes.

Speaking of cellphones! Oh, cellphones! In Hawksley's world, Kat is a super-smart hacker but is too stupid to put down her cellphone. Every time she evades the public security cameras and gives the bad guys the slip, Kat picks up a cellphone and calls her boss in Washington. And immediately, the Russian bad guys, the US government, and the British police and the military all lock onto her cellphone and pinpoint her location. Five minutes later she's usually been arrested again, kidnapped, or shot at. When she escapes, she calls her boss again!

The surveillance technology in Hawksley's world is plausible, although he overestimates the ease of networking everything. Nevertheless, it's possible with today's technology. But given that this is set in the near future (Kat has a 5 GB flash drive, so we're talking within a few years) there's no earthly way such a system could be put into place so soon.

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