prince_corwin: (Morons)
[personal profile] prince_corwin
So, back when I reviewed This Is Not A Game, by Walter Jon Williams, I wrote: "Walter Jon Williams is one of those rare authors who can write in just about any sub-genre of SF and pull it off well, so even when he's writing about swords with embedded quantum singularities and talking cats (talking cats!!) I will buy his stuff." It was, overall, a positive review, and contributed to my overall impression that WJW can do anything and succeed at it.

Unfortunately, the sequel to that book, Deep State sort of shattered that notion for me. Unfortunately, to explain why I almost threw the book against the wall (only being stuck waiting for car repairs made me finish it) requires spoilers.

So, I will put this review behind two cuts: The light spoilery normal review stuff, then an HR, then a serious batch of world-destroying spoilers under a second one.



"Deep State" takes place a few years after TINAG, in the same universe with the same main character, Dagmar. Dagmar runs a successful Augmented Reality Gaming company, even after the events of the previous book, which have left her with lasting emotional trauma. The books opens with Dagmar running a game in Turkey, as an advertising campaign for a new James Bond remake. The year is never disclosed, but it's plausibly maybe five years out, for two reasons: First, the technology is just a little more cutting edge than the real world, and second, the geopolitics are a little different in that Turkey has recently had a military coup.

(It's really creepy that this book came out when it did, too. One could replace Turkey with Egypt and only slightly re-write things.)

Nor is this the "typical" Turkish military coup, but a very bad one. Dagmar finds herself hired by an actual spy to use ARG techniques to foment a counter-revolution in Turkey to put things back a-right.

So far, so good. There are some interesting characters, some nice concepts, and overall its an interesting fictional exploration of things like augmented reality, augmented reality games, crowdsourcing, the power of modern communications, etc. Eventually, the bad Turkish dictatorship realizes they're being gamed, and shuts down the internet...

And here's where we're going jump into the world-destroying spoilers, after which you won't need to read the book, but won't want to, either.








































Right.

So the Turkish dictatorship shuts down the internet, which is written in crayon on page five of the 21st century dictator's manual. But as reasonable as that is, it's not enough for WJW in this book. In this book, they shut down the internet because they have access to another Super Secret internet weapon, which is some sort of magical virus that lives between the hardware layers of apparently every single router in the entire world. From every vendor. Everywhere.

Which really makes no sense at all, but it gets worse, because it is also apparently geographically tunable. You can use it in Turkey to shut down only Turkish internet. Or you can use it in Uzbekistan. Or in New York. Separately. Which also makes no sense.

But okay, let's see if we can chew that over and swallow it.

Right.

It turns out, though, that the Turkish dictatorship has this Super Secret Impossible weapon because it had been used a few years prior, on Syria, and through a series of mishaps and betrayals, two contractors working on the Syrian job engaged in treason to save their lives. Okay, not objectionable, but here are the things flowing from that little revelation that made this the dumbest thing WJW has ever written:

1) And the whole point of fomenting counter-revolution was to get the Super Secret Weapon back in friendly hands.

2) And despite the super spy having been noted early on as using the original ARG scenario as pretext to lay down his own internet routing equipment in the country, did not use hardened equipment.

3) Nor did he or his bosses foresee the evil Turkish dictatorship using it against the US, which they obviously do in the course of the book, because, duh.

4) But our team is so smart they manage to work around the problem by buying ca 1985 era tone modems, because those are clean.

5) The two idiots who engaged in treason? Are working on this job, too.

6) And the super spy organizing the whole thing knew this.

I'll say this again: Two people known to have sold out secrets that would be classified at the TS level, to Turkey, not only are walking around free, not only still have their clearances, but are working on an operation against that very government. This did not register on super spy or his bosses as the biggest security hole in the history of the entire world. Literally, did not register. Our Heroine, with no security paranoia beyond corporate counter-espionage, has to walk super spy through the scenario and convince him... after people start getting assassinated and they are scratching their heads wondering where the security leak is! Yo, dumbass! It's the people who already sold your ass out, to the same people, a few years ago!

I read 2/3 of it yesterday because I was trapped. I read the last bit this afternoon for spite.

And it's worse because none of that weirdness was even necessary! It was a twist for the sake of a twist, but it's just so stupid!

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November 2011

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