"THE QUANTUM DECEPTION: A Mormon Hacker novel," by Denver Acey, Sweetwater Books, $17.99, 279 pages (f)
Denver Acey, “frustrated with Hollywood’s inaccurate portrayal of cybercrime," according to his website, published "The Quantum Breach," a fictional exploration of what modern hacking looks like in 2014. It proved that a good hacking story doesn’t need a bespectacled 20-something pounding away at a keyboard while the source code of the latest Linux kernel flies by in green, glowing text. In fact, "The Quantum Breach" managed to portray something far more deep and involving, as hackers emotionally manipulated and devastated their victims and showed real meatspace consequences of today’s cybercrime.
Acey has published his second novel, "The Quantum Deception." While using several of the same characters and hypothetical supercomputers, as "The Quantum Breach," "The Quantum Deception" turns to fictional life in the most advanced not-so-fictional cyber facility on Earth.
"The Quantum Deception" also shifts from being a thought-provoking "Quantum Breach"-style infodump into a formulaic technothriller. It’s a formula followed well, though, and Acey shows he can still tell a solid story, although fans of "The Quantum Breach" will find themselves hoping, page by page, for something more substantial.
In "The Quantum Deception," Mormon convert and recovering hacker Tanner Stone, who now goes by Tanner Zane, investigates an airliner explosion meant for him. Behind the terrorist attack is a scheme to destroy the financial infrastructure of the United States. Tanner and his team struggle in both the digital and physical worlds to discover and put an stop to the nation-debilitating chaos on the horizon.
Acey paints his canvas with fascinating colors, but the strokes are broad. The individual scenes beg to be treated with more depth. Tanner is employed at the NSA, programs and operates a fictional quantum computer powerful enough to break any digital encryption on the planet. His team surveils and eavesdrops digital communication, and although highly topical in the age of near-ubiquitous government surveillance and whistle-blowers and the questionable legality of both, Acey handwaves away the entire issue with a single paragraph of dismissal.
That’s not to say that the novel is devoid of depth. While the prose is dry and analytic befitting the technological tone of the story, Acey still provides a few truly brilliant and quotable lines worthy of admiration, and even pens a poignant scene where a character’s wayward and criminal past melds with and is overcome by his beautiful future.
Acey weaves together meaningful characters and complex, impressive situations with a fluid grace typical of more experienced authors. In fact, that feeling of wanting more from the setting is a credit to Acey’s natural talent to create interesting tapestries to paint his vivid characters on.
"The Quantum Deception" contains some violent situations, but there is no swearing or sexual content.