Thursday, January 11, 2007

SOXSTER TO THE RESCUE: Richard Clarke's 'Breakpoint', report to landfill

Readers know DD is no fan of national security expertcelebrity Richard Clarke. I wrote the most popular column on Clarke in the entire known universe, Legacy of Miscalculation.

Clarke's fetish was cyberterrorism and electronic Pearl Harbor until it became obvious there would be no glory in it. At which point it was time to retroactively burnish the reputation using the power of the media to tell the story, "If only Bush had listened to me, this might not have happened."

DD remembers Clarke differently. He recalls a teleconference between Clarke and representatives of the anti-virus industry during a newsmaking computer virus contagion, a teleconference which was supposed to be secure but which was invaded by a member of the tech media, recorded, burned to CD, and distributed by MP3.

The country should be disconnected from the Internet, recommended one vendor. It was going to "be a big ol' denial of service attack," said Clarke.

Clarke has a new book out, a techno-thriller. It is his second novel.

Clarke's been an active writer and according to the Los Angeles Times, his last piece of fiction, "The Scorpion's Gate," was a bestseller.

The last time DD checked on the writings of the man, it was for this piece of terror porn fiction for men at the Atlantic Monthly. Read it now, since the older it gets the more amusingly baked it appears.

Wasn't a Clarke fan when no one knew who he was except people who follow national security issues and never will be. DD will only jump up and down on whatever the man produces. Clarke is a celebrity only because what he had to say was convenient for the Democrats prior to Bush's re-election. We lost the election, anyway.

The Los Angeles Times reviewed Clarke's Breakpoint in "Upping the 'it's a scary world ante." Readers will have to admit that's not doable. We're already saturated with "it's a scary world." In the United States of America, "it's a scary world" is an unofficial religion. We marinate in the sauces of "it's a scary world" stories.

"Now we have Breakpoint, a techno-thriller in the Tom Clancy mode, interlaced with intimations of science fiction," writes reviewer Tim Rutten.

Rutten explains Clarke's characters and characterizations are shit.

"When the author ventures beyond [a] sort of technical or superficial detail, things go decidedly south," he states.

This would be no surprise to anyone who may have had the pleasure of listening to a Clarke speech prior to his celebritization by the newsmedia and publishing industry.

The plot of Breakpoint, according to the Times, is an Internet intrigue in which the scheme is to disrupt "the world's digital nervous system." "Suspicion falls on the Chinese, aggressive and upset by the US's support for Taiwan independence."

However, there's more to it than that, according to the paper, which furnishes no spoiler.

Clarke always comes back to his old love, cyberterror, and the Toffler-ian new way of war in which everything revolves around gadgetry you can read about every month in Popular Science or the famous tech comic book, Wired.

" . . . living Internet programs, nanotechnology . . . " are invoked, writes Rutten.

The protagonists of Clarke's book are accompanied by "Soxster, their faithful computer hacker -- a sort of high tech Tonto."

We can characterize Clarke as a poor man's Tom Clancy, or Larry Bond if he were a political celebrity.

Who is Larry Bond, you ask? A developer of a modern naval wargame, Harpoon, a Clancy-colleague whose books never did as well as those of his friend's even though they were virtually indistinguishable.

Clark'es Breakpoint is good enough for another ticket to go on whatever special Bill Maher's currently flogging on HBO or appearances on Air America.

As next step in the milking of it, DD recommends a computer game under Clarke's name, a hybrid somewhere between Clancy's numerous PC shoot-em-ups and John Madden Football. Players alternate between beating off digital Pearl Harbor, being a Paul Revere no one in power listens to, lobbying, or being famous for being famous.

Update: A review of 'Breakpoint' is found here. Contains spoilers.


Anonymous Dave Bell said...

Have there ever been any good computer crime novels?

I recall Tom Clancy did something half-plausible, once. His plot used a carefully directed, inside-iob, attack on financial trading records.

I know there's something in the publishing process from Charlie Stross. Again, the plot involves an attack on a specific target.

There are buildings in various cities which are packed with Internet services, both the routing of data and the servers on which such things as websites run. What if Google were truck-bombed?

There are plausible scary things, if you don't know network engineering. You can even have the bad guys owning the company which does off-site backups.

If I want stories of unreal terror, I'll go read M.R. James.

7:43 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home