Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Review: 'Darknet' by Matthew Mather

Author Matthew Mather is more than just a successful writer of speculative fiction: 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. He went on to found one of the first tactile interface companies, which became the world leader in its field, as well as creating a major award-winning brain training video game. In between he’s worked in a variety of start-ups, everything from computational nanotechnology to electronic health records, weather prediction systems to genomics, and even social intelligence research.

Matthew’s well-tuned mind steps a bit beyond technology as we know it at present and offers, in story form (or predictions!) where that current state of technology is headed. His writing in many ways feels prescient. Though the reading public has become captivated with his best selling CYBERSTORM, it is likely once the potential film version is realized that the larger public will pay attention to his musings and predictions. Rather than focus on pure sci-fi themes, placing the reader n different worlds and times and often apocalyptic in nature, Matthew instead finds the true terror of out of control technology by placing his current book DARKNET in today’s world: he writes about a Wall Street broker, Jake O'Connell, who gets caught up in the invisible world of assassination markets, virtual currencies, and “chatbots” that can fool people into thinking they are real human beings. And it has been noted the while Mather invents his dystopian vision of the future in this storyl, the novel is, according to Matthew, “based on real-world technologies, whether or not the average person is aware of them.” Or as one interviewer posed, Mather’s books explore the dark possibilities of new technologies, ranging from cyberwarfare, assassination networks, to “virtual corporations” run by artificial intelligence. Although his plots are fictional in nature, Mather explained that much of the technology he writes about either exists or is currently in development.’

As his synopsis opines, ‘A terrifying new breed of technology evolves - a dark secret determined to stay hidden. DARKNET is a prophetic and frighteningly realistic thriller set in present-day New York, the story of one man's quest to overcome a shadowy force pushing the world to the brink of destruction, and his incredible gamble to risk everything to save his family. Jake O'Connell leaves a life of crime and swears he'll never return, but his new life as a stock broker is ripped away when his childhood friend Sean Womack is murdered. Thousands of miles away in Hong Kong, data scientist Jin Huang finds a list of wealthy dead people in a massive banking conspiracy. Problem is, some of the people don't stay dead. As Jin begins her investigation, she's petrified to discover her own name on the growing list of dead-but-alive. On the run, Jake O'Connell and Jin Huang race across continents to uncover a dark secret spreading like a cancer into the world. Why was Sean killed, and how is the list of wealthy dead connected? Are some of them really coming back to life? But all this becomes irrelevant when Jake's wife and daughter are attacked.’

It is one thing to have a wildly creative imagination and make that tangent to today's state of being, but it is quite another to be able to write such concepts with dignity and intelligence - the trait that makes Matthew's book so poignant to a very large audience. Smart ideas, a gift for conversational interplay, and keen sense of timing are married to an impressive vocabulary and ability to make his words visual. It is no wonder he is an instant success in his rather newly chosen field of writing! Grady Harp, December 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.