A Book Review from Bruce Simmons
To take a simple event caused by internet hacktivists, and combining that with mother nature and a series of terrible winter storms, showed the depth of which author Matthew Mather understands the inextricable relationships of man, technology, and mother nature in CyberStorm.
And with the worse possible timing, that relationship can get pretty ugly as Mather explores the struggle for survival in an improbable but not impossible situation. But more than that, Mather explores the instinct to survive and how it is tempered with trust or the lack thereof, depending on the scenario.
He explores how basic trust is torn down while different situations force trusts to be endured or appreciated.
This Mather guy has a crazy and intuitive perspective on what could be, if the worse possible set of timings could occur. And he should, all things considered.
CyberStorm is a story that on the face of it, starts out quietly enough, like any other disaster story. Yet this “human disaster story” shows us how in one instance, in one way, our dependency on the cyber world, the internet, the web, can be our undoing. In a huge way.
It starts out with a quick preview of a moment deep within the story to whet your appetite for what’s to come. Then our story starts out on November 25, in Chelsea, New York City, with the line, “WE LIVE IN amazing times!”
We meet the core of folks we’re about to follow down the rabbit hole of hell at a barbeque. We meet Mike Mitchell, his wife Lauren, two-year-old son Luke, his neighbor and best friend Chuck & his wife Susie, Tony – their buildings’ doorman, his wife’s influential parents, their quiet Russian neighbors Irena and Aleksandr Borodin and a bevy of other supporting characters. Some we meet now, others that we’ll meet later.
And what a perfect way to start the day, a gathering of friends and family, looking to celebrate the impending holidays. Mike is chatting with Chuck as they continue their life-long debate on practical (Mike) vs. paranoid preparations and suspicions (Chuck) and the different conspiracies that could influence our day-to-day lives.
Mike is a practical person like many of us while Chuck is a “prepper.” Meaning, if some sort of disaster were to strike today, no matter what the source, well, his hoarding of survival supplies, if need be, could come in handy.
Mike tolerates Chuck’s perspectives nicely, but moves on with his life, as it is, glossed over with the day-to-day challenges. Especially, as we learn early on, with what appears to be the slow and inevitable pile of crumbs called his marriage.
What Mike has with Lauren isn’t quite broken yet, but you can see the signs and clues. Add to that, pressure from Lauren’s parents to work on developing and furthering her career. Nope, none of it adds up to a fun life. On top of that, Lauren has some activities in her life that leaves us wondering what’s up. Or maybe more to the point, what’s his name?
Yep, Mike has a decent life with a few above average set of challenges.
At least they were.
Then the first chapter ends with Mike asking Chuck about the news of a dam in China.
The next chapter we’re introduced to a few global tensions with China, and in the news, injected like a quiet idea, was the bit about US government websites being hacked.
And then we’re teased with information about citizen hacktivists, and suddenly, life takes a bit of an annoying turn when no one can get any packages delivered in time for Christmas because FedEx and UPS have been crippled by viruses in their logistics shipping software.
Life sucks, huh?
Then a series of winter storms hit New York City, and one thing after another starts to occur that takes the reader down a slowly unwinding and horrific approach to how our society can break so utterly and completely, that it’s soul-shaking.
We watch as our intrepid party see news of the things falling apart around the world. Until these events are put on the back burner when these horrific snow storms viciously wreak havoc on New York City. The infrastructure starts to fall apart, like the web, cell service then the TV and news radio stations.
And the story dialog is done so well, that each phase, each new chapter of this unfolding terror is completely believable.
And once Mike and his building gets cut off completely from the world, it’s every one for themselves. It’s watching the unprepared staggering through events. The prepared, becoming the hero of the moment. It’s the trust that develops tensely between parties while human nature destroys the basic trust of man himself.
It’s an incredible read.
I’m normally an action-oriented story man. I need some action to justify the words between characters. But be warned, this is more of a thinking man’s story peppered with moments of frustrating or satisfying action. And Mike Mitchel is just your everyday guy with a hard-core need to survive and protect his family and friends.
This out-of-control spiral is something that you can see bits and pieces of it happening right now… today. Or is that paranoia going off in your head? Hell, I was in the middle of CyberStorm when a news piece hit the wire about a company getting hit by a computer virus and on the inside, I’m screaming out, “Ahhh, Mather warned us about this!!!”
Yes, the reader can get dragged into the story that deeply. That’s because Mather bases his story on potentially real events and situations. Situations you can see now and easily embrace emotionally. And as a surprise, this story is turns out to be a prequel of sorts to the Atopia Chronicles. (You’ll see when you read it.)
I think CyberStorm is a very fresh take on the story of how society can come crumbling down. The story is peppered with basic events that aren’t shocking, but not totally unexpected while the little things that aren’t expected, pop up and mess up the entire process of what you do expect. (And what I just said will make perfect sense while reading the story.)
At the core of it all, the humanity of a few is what gets our intrepid group of survivors through each new development and overpowers the broken shell of humanity of the many.
And as the story comes to a close, it’s an exceptionally well thought out set of developments and you are not left hanging, wondering what happened to who. You have closure, wheather you like it or not! (No, I did not misspell whether.) And in this case, the story-ending events are a wonderful twist that, well, at least I did not see coming.
The ending made me think “What!?,” and reminded me of the ending of The Mist, that was directed by Frank Darabont based on a story by Stephen King. And this story would make an awesome movie.
There’s a reason Mather has an insightful perspective on the material in this book.
From his website: “Matthew Mather is the best-selling author of CyberStorm and the six-part hit series Atopia Chronicles. He is also a leading member of the world’s cybersecurity community who started out his career working at the McGill Center for Intelligent Machines.”