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|The Raptor Virus
by Frank Simon
Published by Broadman & Holman, 2001
Abebooks.com: various editions
Reviewed by: Robert Slade
The action is good. In places. The dialogue is stilted, alternately racing through plot developments and turgidly spending whole pages on irrelevancies. The characters are inconsistent, sometimes undergoing radical personality changes from one chapter to the next. A few sections seem to be early versions of some chapters that have been left unmodified even though the author subsequently changed his mind about one of the characters. In fact, at times, the plot seems to "undevelop," and run backwards.
Throughout most of the book the overall feeling is one of a sentimentality syrupy enough to engender tooth decay. (Simon also seems determined to prove that even Christians can get all steamy about sex, coming up with a kind of chaste soft porn.)
The Review Project's Hong Kong correspondent had a few comments. The Special Administrative Region's residents apparently find this book the funniest read since The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Never mind that the motivation of the evil Chinese is totally out of touch with the Chinese mindset, or that people in Hong Kong suddenly speak Mandarin instead of Cantonese, or that you can't run across Connought Road, or that you get on trams at the back, and pay as you get off at the front, or that freighters don't go anywhere near the yacht club or North Point, or that The Peak isn't actually a peak at all (and no longer bears Victoria's name), or that the Peak Tram doesn't have dual tracks, and rests against bumpers at the bottom anyway, or that businessmen there speak American dialect, not British, or that you can't see the bus loop from the Star Ferry...
Well, enough of pretending I'm a real book reviewer. Let's cut to the tech.
Sorry, there isn't any.
About all I can tell you about the Raptor Virus itself is that it isn't a virus. It's a kind of time-based logic bomb. It's embedded in chips. While they don't exactly "blow up real good," they do manage to generate a lot of smoke when they go off. (We all know that computers work by smoke an mirrors, and when you let the smoke out, they don't work anymore, right? Despite the fact that software failures almost never cause hardware damage.)
What kind of chips?
Why are they essential to all kinds of utility equipment?
How is it that one company has managed to get a complete lock on manufacturing of this apparently vital component?
How is it that this "added feature" manages to escape detection by all kinds of Y2K paranoid testers, and those who are thinking ahead to the End of Seconds for UNIX?
There are other technical problems. Some mileages and speeds don't add up. Train system procedures pretty much universally state that, in the absence of valid traffic control signals, you proceed slowly enough that you can stop within half the distance you can see, not go barrelling down the track as fast as you can. The communications gear harks back to the days of suitcases full of equipment, rather than Iridium handhelds.
I don't suppose the book would manage to capture a Bulwer-Lytton award, but it comes close.
© Robert M. Slade, 2001
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