What I liked most about this novel, is that it isn’t clogged with so many characters that it’s hard to remember who is who, which I have found is a theme among most of the Clancy novels that I’ve read. There are two main groups; the Net Force teams, which are broken into the Director and his second, the top computer/internet expert, and a team of ex-military commandos who execute the missions; and several entities within the ‘bad guys’ realm, including the mastermind behind the plots, his ‘strike force’, one of the New York mafia families, and a hired assassin. A few other minor roles pop up when needed, but that’s it.
The only part of the novel that I found the least enjoyable, and the most unlikely parts, is how the internet based scenes play out. Though it is a creative attempt, I don’t see how this would work in a real life situation. Let me explain. To ‘ride the net’ in this story, one has to put on Virtual Reality gear, and then enter the online world through either a commercially produced scenario, or a scenario that the individual wrote themselves. Cool concept. I just don’t get it.
First of all, the top computer guy always chooses a scenario where he is driving a car, and always on some really cool Swiss mountain road, or a section of the autobahn or something. The faster the speed of the vehicle being driven, the faster the speed at which one is surfing the net. When he encounters larger packets of data being transferred online, due to their size and speed, they show up as large cargo trucks. And since they require a larger amount of bandwidth, they stick to the ‘freeways’, which can get jammed up if too much data is moving at once. You got it – rush hour traffic in the virtual world.
Now, I get that writing five or six paragraphs about downshifting and upshifting through a sports cars gears as the vehicle hugs the road provides far more opportunity for the use of metaphors and other descriptive phrases. But I don’t see how it all connects. I’ll give an example. In one scene, the master villain diverts money from a small bank into his own funds. This plays out in VR as an actual bank heist. When the NetForce computer expert catches him, they have an elaborate car chase through the back alleys of New Orleans. Great visuals, but why does the villain need to be in a VR to do this? Again, this book was written nearly 20 years ago, and VR is just now making a serious push into modern society.
Anyway, I digress a bit. Bottom line, the VR scenarios are truly well crafted and thoroughly enjoyable parts of the story, and the rest of the book is also well done. Though, the reason for this may be that Clancy wasn’t the author? Though his name is stamped all over the cover, when I looked up the book on Amazon, it lists a Steve Perry as the author, and Clancy as one of two ‘creators’.
Overall, I give this book a solid 4 star rating.