Matthew Blakstad’s debut novel is the first in a planned series of techno thrillers, not usually my genre of choice but I had heard good things and managed to get a copy through Goodreads Giveaways.
There’s no such person as sic_girl. She’s a fake internet personality Dani Farr designed to win a bet.
But she’s just started spilling state secrets.
Dani can’t imagine why anyone would hack a bit of code she created as a joke… but now she risks losing everyone and everything she cares about.
Government minister Bethany Lehrer has put her job on the line to launch Digital Citizen, a national online ID scheme. sic_girl seems determined to bring that down. And if Dani and Bethany don’t figure out who – or what – is behind sic_girl, it won’t just be their lives and privacy at stake.
The basic premise is that there has been a data hack at Mondan, the company that Dani works for. Hired for her incredible skills at coding, she is the prime suspect when information starts to leak via her online creation. Bethany is under fire because she gave Mondan the tender instead of the company usually preferred for government contracts. We know that neither of them are responsible for the hack but who is? And what is their motive?
Some of the techno stuff went over my head but I thought Blakstad did well to walk the line between having his less savvy characters ask too many expositional questions, and make sure that his less techie readers would understand enough. Above the jargon there is a decent plot though I wasn’t sure that the balance was right. The middle of the novel was quite slow-paced for a thriller, then it all kicked off in the last quarter.
Overall I enjoyed this book. The characters were varied and well-rounded for the most part, though Dani seemed quite naïve at times. For someone with her talents, at one point she goes incognito when a friend gives her a credit card in a fake name but within hours she’s back on the grid because she can’t resist signing into a website using her existing user name. Surely she’d realise this was a mistake? For someone whose entire life revolves around social media sites she was also pretty stupid to have allowed so many incriminating photos of herself to be taken. There were a few things like this that I didn’t buy into. The end…well, I let Blakstad off because there’s going to be a follow up, but I sort of wish he’d missed out the last chapter, which seems purely there to emphasise that this is an unfinished story, the sort of ending where you only realise it’s the end after you turn the page and there’s no more.
To sum up, I had frustrations with this book but still found it a rewarding read.