CYBER WAR ATTACK!
The Future Comes Rushing at Us with All the Inevitability of Sundown
Edward L. McDonald Self (522 pp.)
$27.99 hardcover, $16.99 paperback, $9.99 e-book ISBN: 978-0-9993686-2-6; October 10, 2017
An Arizona town’s emergency services director preps for a cyberstrike, while his daughter faces a menace of an entirely different kind in McDonald’s debut thriller series-starter.
The North Korean government unsuccessfully fires missiles at the west coast of the United States. It soon appears that the action was merely a precursor to a cyberattack, as various grids start shutting down. The story then jumps back two months to the grand opening of an Arizona police substation, complete with its own independent microgrid for handling disasters. It’s the project of Selwyn “Murf” Murphy, a former Special Forces soldier who’s now the program director of emergency services in the town of Tortolita. For years, Murf has anticipated a North Korean cyberattack, so he continues to develop his substation (colloquially known as “Fort Apache”), debating such additions as a stand-alone emergency room. Meanwhile, his estranged 14-year-old daughter, Dani, is living with her alcoholic mother, Murf’s ex-wife Louise. Louise’s sleazy boyfriend, Vince, who’s in debt to a drug dealer, persuades Dani to dance at the appropriately named Two-Bit Bar. When Murf gets wind of Dani’s situation, saving his daughter takes precedence over all else. Despite the title, there’s very little cyberwar in this thriller; much of the narrative instead focuses on the lead-up to the attack. News reports of various transgressions of the North Korean government create a feeling of imminent danger, however, and Dani’s seemingly unrelated plotline is consistently intense. Her story, in fact, features a character that’s even more indelible than Murf: Doc, a biker-club physician and former battlefield medic who befriends Dani and tends to her when she’s injured. McDonald maintains the momentum throughout by employing alternating perspectives of various characters and very short chapters and scenes. Although Murf gets few opportunities to validate Fort Apache, he does prove himself a hero in the action-packed final act.
Primarily an introduction to the protagonist and his fortress, but its solid writing promises a worthy series.
Cyber War is as current as a piece of fiction can be. Because of the author’s obvious experience with law enforcement and technical knowledge relating to electronic surveillance and cyber warfare, the narrative rings true and clear. Starting off with a stomach-churning news flash that manages to get ballistic missiles, west coast devastation and power grid melt down all in a few paragraphs, the plot slows enough to introduce a cast of characters ranging from heroic to bottom-line creepy. Finally, there’s a frighteningly up-to-date chapter involving an American destroyer and what’s described as an anonymous colossus.
Cyber War combines the technical expertise of Tom Clancy with the characterization and fast-paced stories of Ken Follett. Turn off your phone, sink into a comfortable chair, turn to page one and kiss the rest of the day good-bye. Once you start reading it, this book will not let you go.
Author: Sit and Cry and Every Crow in the Blue Sky.