In The Blue Nowhere, we have computer hackers run wild as Phate, a Silicon Valley hacker, is taking a computer game to a whole new level, collecting points by killing hard to kill targets. Phate does this by infiltrating people’s computers with a trap door virus, giving him access to all of the information on their computers. He then hunts them down and kills them, often by manipulating data found in computers to some way trick them. The computer crimes division is a bit overmatched in trying to deal with Phate, so they use an incarcerated computer hacker, Wyatt Gillette, to assist in their investigation. Gillette is an equally skilled hacker and matches wits with Phate, with whom he shares a past history. The lead Detective, Frank Bishop, uses Gillette’s skills and old-fashioned police investigation to hunt down Phate as he continues to kill.
This is a different type of crime thriller than what I am used to reading. Serial killers in fiction tend to be very similar and generic, but Phate is a very different kind of killer. He is completely disassociated with reality. For him, the only thing that matters are machines, code, and virtual reality. He doesn’t see people as being people. To him, they are only objects. He contrasts with Gillette, who also is enthralled by machines, but he at least has an ex-wife that he loves and views people as people, and not mere lines of code. The chase in this novel works well. The one shortcoming is the believability of Phate’s character. The way he acts and the real world skills he has is so unlike any hacker type I have ever known. I’m not tech savvy enough to determine how realistic some of the online activities were, but the characterization of Phate was a bit sketchy. This was a good thriller and an entertaining read, one that I enjoyed.
Carl Alves – author of Blood Street