Jeffery Deaver’s The Blue Nowhere.
The story revolves around a computer hacker who finds himself arrested and pulled into the investigation against his one-time efriends and co-conspirators in wreaking havok through hacking and infecting others with computer viruses.
This is a hacker vs. hacker story more than it is a cop solving a crime story. It plays on the truth that we really know nothing about the people behind the internet profiles we befriend online, never meeting the people in person or learning who they really are.
Our main hacker “Wyatt Gillette” a.k.a. “Valleyman” is pitted against his ex-hacking partner “Phate”, who turned from the dark side of hacking to the darker side of blurring the lines between violent online games with real life. Disgusted with Phate’s deadly online activities, Gillette abandons his identity as Valleyman and turns on his online friend. It’s funny how the lesser of two evildoers is the one who gets sent to the big house. Not funny in a “ha-ha” way, but rather in a “isn’t that just the way things go” way.
When Phate’s deadly online hacks and snuff games turn to real life hands-on murders, the fine folks of the Computer Crimes Unit need an expert matching Phate’s skills in order to catch their killer. The very bureaucracy he fought against as a hacker springs Gillette from prison and he becomes our main character with an entourage of police officers leading him in the contest against his rival hacker.
Naturally, when Phate learns that his ex-faceless friend and now sworn enemy “Valleyman” is involved in the investigation, he changes the direction of his own online snuff game turned real life and makes his rival into his new main target.
Gillette is something of a geeky character and that pretty much fits my image of a hacker type. Sure that’s stereotyping, but we’re all guilty of that to some degree. I never really got a feel of that reader-character connection to any of the other characters. They seemed more like supporting characters to me.
There were some events in the book, at the end, that were never explained. But, I think that was by design, a little reminder by the author that there will always be unexplained things in life and in stories.
The scariest part of this story is the reality that hackers like these are alive and well and living in large numbers across the globe. That, and the damage that could be caused at the psychotic whim and a few keystrokes of some anti-social loner who likely is unable to emotionally connect with real people and therefore is likely incapable of empathy. Of course that doesn’t describe all hackers, but even one who does fall into that category is one too many.
While I wouldn’t put this in my “I would read it again” pile, I was not disappointed with the read.
The story dragged a little at times for me, but the descriptions are good and Deaver moves the story without a lot of extra unnecessary words. It isn’t one of my favourite reads, but I certainly can see that someone who likes this kind of crime thriller would enjoy the story a lot more than I did.
While personal taste is relative, for the reader it means a lot.
Personally, I liked Jeffery Deaver’s Roadside Crosses better.