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An Okay Read w/ Few Surprises
on April 17, 2014
The novel opens with an eerie moment where an unknown virtual entity slips in the backdoor of our largest and most secure (we thought) server warehouse. The U.S. is under cyber attack - and we're clueless to the threat.
Through a purely happenstance moment Frank Adversego, a master cyber-sensation with the Library of Congress IT department, pulls up a file only to receive a message about contributing his file to the 'Alexandria Project'. The file disintegrates and disappears into the ether. There's nothing on back-up after back-up as Frank digs through the system all the way to the wall to find it is gone forever - as if it had never existed. When that and more unintended deletions come to light, Frank is immediately suspect number uno. But the revelations have only begun.
Frank may be the most brilliant technological mind around, but his personal life is a shambles. Once harboring an enormous chip on his shoulder, Frank is unable to connect with the greater humanity around him. Couple that with an inability to focus on a task to completion and events take this once promising individual - a McArthur Foundation 'Genius' Award recipient - down from dizzying heights to barely getting by. As a boy, his own father left without warning, never to contact Frank again. As a man, his wife left and took his only daughter with her. The well-paying jobs have dissipated until he's destitute. Out of desperation to remain a part of his daughter's life, Frank accepts token employment given him by his daughter's godfather. Seeking something greater than his own pleasure, Frank sticks with the job for ten years and worms his way back into his daughter's life.
He's never needed either as much as he needs them now.
With the CIA and FBI out to make him the scapegoat, Frank goes into hiding deep in the Nevada desert until he can sort out the truth behind the REAL purpose of the attacks. Along the way, Frank learns more than he ever bargained for.
There were several exciting moments in The Alexandria Project, but the story overall fell rather flat for me. There wasn't anything new here and everything was rather anticipated. Maybe I've read too many cyber-attack conspiracy stories of late, but I was able to pretty much determine from the first chapter who the actual bad individual was and where the story ultimately would go. There was a touching reveal while Frank was hiding out in Nevada, but this too was really no surprise.
The characters had their moments, but for the most part they felt very one-dimensional. The venture capitalist guru was rather a caricature that reminded me of the very worst televangelist times ten. Believe me - having been in the banking and political sphere myself for over twenty years, I've experienced pretty slimy individuals and questionable actions. However, this seemed more over-the-top and less grounded in reality to the point that instead of being mad I found myself chuckling. I wanted to connect with the characters, but there was so little to relate to.
There was an awful lot of telling rather than showing. I would rather have experienced the moments alongside the characters while the action was transpiring instead of having one character recite it to another character after the fact. I wanted the immediacy to make my heart pound, my hands grip my Kindle tighter, and keep me turning screen after screen to find out what happens next. Those moments were fleeting, mainly coming toward the beginning and at the very end.
The beginning was pretty clean of grammar and formatting errors, but as I worked my way through the story, more issues came to light. Extra words, duplicate words, and missing words and quote marks (some backward) were the biggest issues with grammar and punctuation. Formatting consisted of changes in font size and a few hard returns in the midst of a paragraph or dialogue. Minor irritations, but another run-through with a set of editing eyes would be good here.
As a reader, I may not know all of the in's and out's of a particular subject, but it is the plot and pace of the story that keeps me reading. As a writer, I trust that readers are knowledgeable enough to have a general grasp of subject matters I may employ in my stories so as not to spend time over-explaining what I am trying to convey to the audience (or as I like to call it, info-dumping). Throughout The Alexandria Project there were hyperlinks to particular words to take the reader out of the story and to an outside source to read about that particular topic - so much so that this became extremely distracting at times. There were sections where so much detail was employed it felt like author intrusion. I had to force myself to continue reading through these sections instead of skipping them, and it slowed the pace to a drag at times.
Overall, I think The Alexandria Project has promise and is an interesting enough story to garner reader attention. Be aware also that there is a very strong political bent that may turn some readers off, but if you're able to suspend your personal viewpoints in this regard it will be easy for you to overlook. I give this one three stars.
I was provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review and was not monetarily compensation for my opinion.