Matthew Mather’s new book, Cyberstorm, is a must read for people who understand the world of cyber technology and its vulnerability but unlike many other books on the topic it is the equally enthralling for those, like me, who have little or no background in the area. Mather’s best-selling Atopia Chronicles are now joined by a book which is destined to hit the best-seller list as well.
The main character of Cyberstorm, Mike Mitchell, has a wife and a son and a good job in computer technology and so is knowledgeable about such things as the holes in the systems of large corporations and how vulnerable the internet is at the best of times. The story begins with most of the main characters on the roof of their expensive New York condo having a barbeque. In attendance are: Chuck, the resident survivalist and conspiracy theorist and his wife and baby daughter, an elderly Russian couple, the Borodins, who had survived Russia under Stalin and the siege of Leningrad and who are now quietly enjoying retirement in New York, the Mitchell’s neighbor, Richard, described as ‘old money New York’, Lauren, Mitchell’s wife and her parents who are described as “old money Bostonian, dyed-in-the-tweed Brahmins.” Also in attendance is the building’s doorman, Tony, who, besides rescuing the meat on the grill that Mike nearly ruined plays a rather large part in the story that follows.
The trouble begins innocently enough with a slowdown on the internet making getting emails and loading pages difficult. Chuck (the survivalist) and Mike are good friends and when Mike is helping Chuck take bottles of water down to Chuck’s already loaded storage locker, Mike mentions the slowdown while teasing Chuck about all the survival gear he has in his storage- things that will shortly be needed although neither is aware of it.
The internet slowdown turns into a shutdown and one of the things that shuts down is the heating in the big new condo building which was controlled by internet. There is a complete power failure on Manhattan Island as a result of not one but two major storms that hit the city bringing freezing temperatures and many feet of snow. On top of everything else there is less and less information about what is going on. Conditions steadily worsen while the emergency channel cheerily twerps about power and water being restored ‘soon’.
The city goes into survival mode and so do our characters and suddenly Chuck’s precautions are saving the other character’s lives. Mayer’s vivid and horrible descriptions of the steadily worsening situation and what people are doing about it are frightening at several levels. Faced with the necessity for survival, the people of New York become desperate and many of the polite social norms begin to break down.
One of the most interesting aspects of how the author shapes this part of the story is the use of the experience of the Russian Couple, the Borodins, at the siege of Leningrad. The elderly couple are adept at survival – more so than any of the other characters, even Chuck, the survivalist. The group escapes Manhattan to go to Chuck’s cabin in Virginia but things are still difficult since most of the gear and supplies that the cabin was supposed to contain was stolen.
The blood and gore there was well-placed and used sparingly which made it more, not less, terrifying. The book was such a page turner I carried my Kobo with me until I finished it. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. There are also not one but two surprise endings and although the book is about how vulnerable we are to international cyber failure there wasn’t a sermon to be found anywhere.
As a special introductory offer Cyberstorm is available at a mere $0.99 a copy March 15th and 16th. As of March 16, Cyberstorm has achieved Number 1 status in Amazon’s E-Book Technothriller category. After the sale it will revert to the usual price of $3.99 which is still a great price for this excellent thriller. It’s available through Amazon.