When a friend goes missing, a failed startup developer must delve deep into the world of smart technology to save him.
Matthew Morell, called Skull by his friends, is not having a particularly good time. His tech startup has failed, he is running out of money, his girlfriend has left him, and he has not spoken to his former best friend, Jon Fast, since a fight over a potential investment in Skull’s company. But when he gets mysterious messages that may come from Jon, and finds that Jon has gone missing, Skull is pushed to investigate. Delving deeper into Jon’s life and family, Skull finds evidence that he’s in real danger – but why, and from whom?
SMART lives up to its name – it’s an intelligent, well-designed thriller with a chillingly plausible premise. The writing is descriptive and engaging: for example, the author describes a crowded plaza as “a fat caterpillar of shoppers bent on the task of eating itself,” and compares a smartphone store to a temple thronging with believers, with priests and acolytes to explain the “relics”. The plot unrolls itself smoothly as the book continues, drawing the story out one revelation at a time. Characters have substantial personalities, with well-developed motivations and plausible background stories, all established in a few deft strokes without overexplaining.
This is mainly a cerebral tale – much of the plot takes place in, or is revealed in, interactions between the characters or descriptions of past events, but there are a few moments of vigorous action and suspense to keep the blood pumping as well. The book’s one minor fault is occasonally lingering too much in descriptive cleverness when it should be focused on immediate action, as when the author spends paragraphs describing the appearance of thugs who are in the process of attacking Skull.
SMART is an intriguing and thoughtful exploration of smart technology, of human tools and their effect, real and potential, on human society, wrapped up in a clever and entertaining story.