Book Review: The Lafayette Campaign

Frank Adversego, the socially awkward, retiring, glamorless hero of Andrew Updegrove's tech thrillers, is back. Frank made his inaugural appearance in The Alexandria Project: A Tale of Treachery and Technology. In my review, I explain how Frank stumbles upon a malware infection at the Library of Congress, is accused of orchestrating the attack, and in the process of proving his innocence helps avert a disaster of apocalyptic scale.

In The Lafayette Campaign: A Tale of Deceptions and Elections, Frank is $famous, for some value of fame. He's traveling once again through the Western States in his high high tech camper, procrastinating while half-heartedly attempting to publish a book, and discovering that he's better at hacking code than prose. A chance encounter with a bicyclist, Josette, and an opportunity to investigate allegations that someone's altering the results of electronic voting during presidential primary campaigns provide Frank with an opportunity to set aside the book to pursue a novel hack and to "pursue" the faintest possibility of romance with a lovely young French woman as well.

The stage is set, and Frank finds himself pursuing not one but possibly several electronic voter gaming conspiracies over the course of a U.S. presidential election season where both political parties have unimaginably bad candidates and where an unknown Native American emerges as a front runner. On an independent party ticket. 

The Lafayette Campaign is entertaining beyond how Frank discovers and ultimately thwarts election fraud. It's quite the maze of twisty turns passages. But Updegrove mercilessly lampoons primary campaigns and campaign funding, and given how the 2016 presidential campaign is proceeding, you may find yourself wondering just how closely art is imitating life here. Frank's investigation is technically credible yet plainly explained for Average Joes and Josettes. And Andrew's character development of Frank and the supporting cast continues to be refreshing.  The good guys are people you'd like to meet in real life and the villains are  manipulative, greedy bastards you'd like to avoid.

Andrew Updegrove's veered from the customary formula for a suspense novel but his formula is fun. I'm looking forward to future adventures with Frank Adversego.


Book Review: Internet Down, A Modern American Western


Internet Down... A Modern American Western relates the post apocalyptic adventures of Chris Nelson as he attempts to return home to Colorado from Chile following a terrorist attack on the oil platform where he earned his living. The apocalyptic event in this story is constructed around the collapse of critical infrastructures in the United States, the damage resulting from Internet-based and real world attacks (nation state sponsored). These set into motion an economic collapse and a oil crisis, and the USG elects to limit access to all major communications' infrastructures: the Internet down and much of the population has limited access to voice networks. Oddly, television (at least news) remains available, but is likely government monitored.

In this setting, author R.R. Hultén tracks Chris as he narrowly escapes death on the oil platform and gradually makes his way through South and Central America, Mexico, and finally crosses into Texas. Along the way, the many facets of Chris Nelson are revealed: he is a "fly over state" conservative,   Great Plains cowboy childhood, college grad, and skilled small aircraft pilot with considerable law enforcement training in tactics. Chris is an excellent marksman with handgun and rifle, and he unhesitatingly uses these skills throughout his adventures. He begins by fleeing from terrorists by boat, then steals clothes a suitcase full of cash and a car and is pursued by the criminals he's fleeced. In Texas, he abandons cars, buys a horse, gears up and takes to trails to avoid the anarchy

Along the way, he is first forced to kill in self-defense, then as a survivor, a vigilante, and finally, as a US border officer. He also meets a string of women who all find him attractive. Chris is MacGyver in chaps but for frequent gun battles where he displays special ops efficiency in dealing death.

If you find Chris to be just "too much character", you'll be as surprised as I was when you read Hultén's bio. Hultén manages to use his experience as a deputy sheriff and aviator along with his cowboy orientation to make a reasonably credible fictional character. Hultén also provides an interesting story line in this setting that links many of the characters Chris meets along his trail in an engaging manner.

The title of this book could easily have been The Fall of Big Oil and the Resurrection of Independent American Spirit. Through Chris and the anarchy Chris wades through from oil platform to Epilogue, Hultén suggests a return to American independence and isolationism as a defence against Muslim and Chinese aggression. Convervatives may nod more appreciatively while reading this than liberals, but the way Hultén describes the recovery from Internet Down will get nods from the environmentally conscious as well.

If you're looking for a high-tech adventure, this is probably not a book for you. If you like cowboy lifestyle and humor, chase scenes, or adventures in aircraft, then I think you'll enjoy Internet Down.

[Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from The Bohlsen Group.]