My addiction to Second Life (SL), a real world 3D virtual world with a world-wide presence, dragged me through half of this book, and the increase in action in the second half (or at least the last quarter) speed me through the rest of the book. The book follows Sue Anne Jones of the FBI NIPC (computer crime division) and her partner Loren Hunter as they fight a cyber-terrorist by the name of Gideon in a world of super-monopolies and the V-Net. The V-Net is a 3D virtual reality interface that has replaced the earlier Internet.
Sue Anne Jones is a single Mormon (and the Mormon part really plays its part in this book, almost a character in its own right; book has “A Mormon cyberpunk novel” on the front cover), and Loren Hunter is an ex-cracker (for “cracker” read “hacker”) who was caught by Sue Anne and now works for the good guys (though he still mutters darkly about the injustice in the world). Sue Anne herself is constantly praying, and trying to get Loren to find his way into Mormonism. Loren is an orphan who, somewhere along the way, found himself under the control of Roman Catholics and can quote the bible but is not really sure if likes God. Both Sue Anne and Loren have certain deepness to their characterization in the book, but most of the other characters that pop up are mostly just names on a page. Gideon, the cyber-terrorist, is seen through the messages he sends after his attacks, and his messages he sends to Sue Anne. Gideon’s messages are filled with biblical quotations, and are about how there is evil in the world and he is working to fix it, and the specific messages to Sue Anne try to get her to join Gideon’s crusade.
The plot and the characterization of the main characters is solid enough, and the setting (at least the computer world most of these characters seem to prefer living in) seems to work. The description of the V-Net greatly reminds me of the present Second Life on many levels. Both have constant updates, are 3d environment, have avatars (while both have default avatars, SL does not require premium membership to customize your avatar), and the gathering places inside the system. One, the V-Net, is the Internet of its day, while Second Life desires to become the 3D Internet. Both are world-wide. Both are trying to spread themselves by having free basic access and software.
Coming from a deep long-term immersion in Second Life, I rather enjoyed the book. I am not sure if knowledge of Second Life would help or not, though. A tolerance for religion in fiction, and a certain amount of praying and attempt at conversion will be needed. I am not sure if the book is for everyone, but I found it to be enjoyable. A solid four out of 5 star work.
(the review can stand as is, though I found it personally interesting to myself when I realized that I had written this review way back in 2007. 8 months after starting my immersion into Second Life. And today, 2012, I haven't been in Second Life for a while now. I suppose it is good I read the book way back when.)