Police Inspector Kurt Wallander lives in Ystad, Sweden (although, to judge from his television appearances, he was born on the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous, as he is rarely seen twice played by the same actor). He is a miserable old bloke.
At this point, I am obliged to confess that half way through I accidentally knocked my paperback into the bath, fusing the last three hundred pages into a papier-mâché brick. Fortunately, I found a Swedish language film of this book on iPlayer's BBC4 site and, with myopic squinting at the subtitles, have been able to piece together the plot.
The baddies are eco-anarchists who are bent on bringing down the world's financial systems, rather than waiting for bankers to do it anyway. They are headquartered in Africa. The word 'Africa' is pronounced something like 'Orfrica' in Swedish, with the corners of one's mouth turned down. It sounds very solemn and impressive. Inspector Wallander knows this, and makes sure he says it a lot in his fine, rumbling, baritone voice. 'Orfffrica.'
Rather than trouble the police department's IT department - I suspect they are fed up with him getting Tipp-Ex in his keyboard - Inspector Wallander employs a teenage consultant called Modin to examine the baddies' computer. Modin so-named, I suspect, to suggest the word 'modem'. In this story, this amounts to an authentic, technical detail.
Modin is initially referred to in the dialogue, and throughout the original book, as male, but in the flick eventually turns out to be a teenage kinky-kooky, gothy-genius computer crackerette. Perhaps the director noticed the popularity of TGWTDT halfway through the shoot, and was able to recast just in time. Modin astonishingly discovers that the baddies have encrypted their secrets, and opines that retrieving them may take a little longer.
While Modin ponders at his-or-her keyboard, Wallander helps out, by finding the key password, which someone has obligingly recorded in a tattoo, in defiance of good security policy (it would be a sod to change every month) and providing further circumstantial evidence that the director was borrowing ideas from Dragon. The password is a babyish word something like 'Binky-bee', and Wallander sounds a bit undignified saying it. But Wallander was not made an inspector for nothing. He counters the Binky-bee problem by referring again to the continental origin of the anarchist plot. 'Orfffrica. Orrrrrfffricahhh.'
While Wallander is still saying 'Africa', the baddies kidnap Modin. Oh no - how will Wallander stop them now? They have overrun and infected the whole internet with their worms, the worms.
Fortunately, to activate the BACS Armageddon, the anarchists must put their ATM card into a particular biddely-bong cashpoint machine outside the Ystad Building Society. I think the anarchists need to put more thought into their requirements specifications: this is the sort of bug it is best to remove before it gets into the implementation. A little more effort here, please, and less time spent on the 3D visualisation of the worm infecting the internet.
Now Wallander has merely to pitch up at the ATM and stop them. Does he do so promptly? No, he does not. He is worried he may have to say ' biddely-bong', which is even worse than Binky-bee.
Anyway, in the end Wallander extracts his digit - in fact, his first digital action in the whole business - and rushes to the ATM. Baddies shot, Modin freed, banking system safe, phew.
Not that Inspector W needed to have bothered, I reckon. Those cash machines go down all by themselves. A few years ago, I was standing in the queue behind this lady, she put her card in, the machine ate it, blue-screened, and rebooted. And do you know what it was running? Windows NT 4! Don't know what the banks think they are playing at, using an elderly domestic operating system for a job like that.
You know, I think The Man They Call The Stieg may have a point after all...®
Fanboy adolation or deliberate literary device?
@ LHO & others on William Gibson:
Having read the Bigend books recently, I don't think the Apple=good, PC=bad is as clear cut as in TGWTDT.
Gibson has said that despite the "tech" aspects of his books, he is not very computer literate himself. He uses a Mac to write and research his books, and that is about it. Word processing and web browsing. In this case it really is a matter of writing about what he knows. He actually uses a Mac, but if you read his comments he isn't much of a fanboy. Having started on a Mac pre-Windows, he hasn't needed or wanted to move.
He also has said that the people in the Bigend trilogy use iPhones and Macs because he felt that that is what the people of this social type (arty/creative) use. You notice that Milgrim doesn't use an iPhone, and he isn't a bad guy. And nor is Hollis' boyfriend whats-his-name.
The Bigend books are very much about branding, descriptions include liberal use of them. It isn't an anonymous SUV but an armoured Toyota, or the plane is a Cessna, or the jeans are Levis. Are these fanboy references? It was a deliberate choice and Apple was a part of it, how its brand is everywhere until you get sick of it.
I also had another thought about the Apples/PCs in these books while making my argument. Apple's product style is almost unique to the Apple brand or at least is most attributed to it, and it is possible that the very ubiquity of PCs makes them anonymous with their generic style and nonsense lettered/numbered model names.
The Bigend trilogy are set very much in the now, whereas the Sprawl and Bridge trilogies aren't. I don't think there was any mention of Apple products in these books, despite their being written on Apple computers, and indeed he has said that Neuromancer was inspired by an Apple IIe commercial.
Disclaimer: I should point out that I own a Mac, a Power Mac 8100/100 from 1995, so I must be biased. Other than that I own 6 Windows and Linux-based PCs.
Another gem from Stob.
I could have read a dozen more reviews along the same lines.
I see a bright future for the "It's encrypted, this may take a little longer" meme. In time it may even supplant "I'll have to use the back door".
Reminds me of...
"This fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the occasional gamekeeper. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midlands shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion the book cannot take the place of J. R. Miller’s Practical Gamekeeper."
— Field and Stream Magazine's review of Lady Chatterley's Lover, November 1959