by Reece Hirsch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was excited to have the opportunity to read Reece Hirsch’s third in the Bruen-Doucet series, Surveillance (Thomas & Mercer 2016). I loved the geeky, techie details in the first two, as they showed in graphic and realistic scenes how online privacy can so easily be not only compromised but used against individuals. Surveillance started off great: A black hat-turned-ethical-hacker shows up at Bruen and Doucet’s new cyberprivacy law firm, asking for help on a white hack job-turned-ugly. When Bruen and the hacker return from coffee, they find all of Bruen’s new employees murdered and must flee for their lives, the assassins close behind, thanks to the digital footprints they leave during their flight.
I love this sort of tech thriller, made even better because it’s part of a storyline I’ve already vetted. The characters were as fascinating as I remembered, multi-dimensional and complicated, and the story arc and the voice heavily dependent upon the involvement of technology. Here’s a good example:
“…ever since 9/11 he’d felt as though someone had reached into his internal processors and ripped out a fistful of wiring. He continued to operate, but there would always be breakdowns and sputtering lapses from now on.”
But quickly, Hirsch turned this bright beginning into a political agenda railing against the purportedly illegal intrusion of government into the lives of law-abiding citizens, propped up by constant references to Snowden (who stole top-secret documents from the NSA and then published them on the internet). When I counted 4 references to Snowden in the first 65 pages, I got suspicious; when that blossomed to 14 by page 156, it was clear that this historic event would be the motivation for the plot. I could have gone along with that if not for the political rants that accompanied it, with Snowden the aggrieved whistleblower and the government the big bad guy who preys on the victimized citizenry. This juxtaposition–good vs. evil, little guy vs. the big villain–is a worthy theme but must be developed sufficiently so the reader will buy into it. In this case, it wasn’t. The only way you’d believe the plot would be if you already believed it going in. To me, the story would have been much stronger without the unnecessary drama of Snowden’s too-recent and ongoing actions–and it would have earned more stars from me.
More tech thrillers
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.