Feeds

The Escapist - cybercrime, hackery and sex

Complex technothriller

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Sartorial satire

It is through this black humour and sociological satire that the book really shines. Morris has the power to take modern concepts and show their ridiculousness by taking them to futuristic extremes. When people in the world stop caring about each other, one message goes, characters are able to parade hostages at gunpoint through buildings without anyone batting an eyelid. The parallel with today's world is powerful, at times.

One of the selling points of the book must be that Morris is a real-life technology expert writing about futuristic technology. There are some moments of utter geekdom, such as when a Microsoft-powered robotic waiter takes three goes to get an order right, or when a server cluster, sitting idly, spends its time running a programme to search for alien life. There are some neat ideas for viable future technology, such as presentation slides triggered by pre-programmed voice cues. Complementing the black humour, there are some utterly outrageous gizmos that are little more than plot devices, but perhaps none the worse-off for it.

Morris has obviously spent a lot of time relating his philosophy PhD to his love of technology, because my favourite aspect of the book is the subtextual discussion of the distinction between humans and computers. Rather than titles, each chapter is preceded with a thought about the philosophy of life, thoughts which are often insightful and provoking, providing the reader with a different context in which to think about everyday occurrences. Here's a couple to give you an idea:

"One of the differences between a living organism and a machine is that living beings are unpredictable. If we ever come to understand the organic as well as we understand machines, perhaps we'd discover that organisms were just complicated mechanisms all along. Or maybe we'd realise that machines behaving unpredictably could be showing signs of life."

"Now that so much of human activity is dictated by databases, you can change the course of history by altering a few entries in a file or two. The whole of human life rests upon trusting information from accredited sources., and a small amount of falsified data can trigger any action you want."

Gives a new context to the 15-minute claim, doesn't it?

Yes, but is it any good?

Perhaps it is this abundance of competing, complimentary and contradictory themes running through the book that gives the book its slightly schizophrenic charm. Even if the balance is sometimes off, attempting to juggle humour with mystery with erotica with social satire with religious extremism and the philosophy of existence is not an easy task, and Morris manages to communicate a lot of feeling, information and commentary in the book's 165 pages. In fact, you may find the need, as I did, to go back over some paragraphs in the book two or three times, just to make sure you've assimilated all the information therein. Rest assured that, as far as I can tell, this is perfectly normal.

Is The Escapist for you? It's difficult not to like a book that packs in all of your favourite features. If you don't like sex, or violence, or technology, or black humour, you won't really enjoy the book (and what are you doing reading el Reg?). If you do, and you can look past the book's few shortcomings, you'll spend several enjoyable evenings following the improbable adventures of Bentley and his crazed harem of co-stars, and you'll have some interesting food for thought by the time you reach the end, too.

Related link

Buy The Escapist

ISBN: 1-905290-05-5 £7.99

More Reg reviews

Mitnick sequel fails to hack it
Cyber Alert: crime hits the net
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.