God of the Internet is a promising techno-thriller than begins with a plot which might – as they say in the classics – have been ripped from the headlines. A computer hacker working for as Islamic Jihadi group takes control over the water supply of Los Angeles, and proceeds to wreak havoc on the population, but that is only the start of his plans. Meanwhile, Juliana, the much maligned ‘dumb’ wife of an eccentric computer genius who doesn’t seem to be able to manage a Twitter account, must figure out the truth behind her husband’s strange behaviour – as though his casual indifference, ultra-flirty secretary, and generally psychotic behaviour towards her doesn’t give her clues enough.
And that’s where this techno-thriller takes a turn for the worse. Sure Juliana’s story, and that of her son’s is an interesting one, and their quest to overcome their failing relationship with their father who is threatening to kidnap the children and take them to Saudi Arabia, is an engaging, if told with slightly-questionable undertones. But all of that pushes into the background the story of the computer hacker, and the effects that the computer attacks are supposed to be having on the community as a whole.
There are mentions early on of population evacuating from the city after the water supply has been cut off, then the attacks apparently ramp up in scale, but there seems to be no real effect on the world at large. Most of the events in this book could happily exist in a vacuum, which makes me wonder whether the techno-thriller story arc is merely a vehicle to set up some right-wing social commentary on the treatment of women, and Muslims in general.
I like stories which know what they are trying to be, and God of the Internet cloaks itself in a thin veneer of techno-thrillery, but winds up forgetting all of that by midway through the novel. From reading the author’s Bio I would really have hoped she might have managed a more competent weaving of the technical language into the story. And to top it off, Juliana – the main female lead – is portrayed as being fairly useless, and lacks a lot of her own agency in the novel.
I guess I had hopes for this novel of it being at least technologically interesting, but it seems like the solution to most of the computer problems in this book involve some FBI man waving his FBI wand, and doors opening all over the world for them. I’ve tried to stay away from spoilers in this review, but this is bland, painting by numbers writing. It was okay, and I can’t think of an immediate competitor in this space, so I’ll give it that much.
I received a review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.