The Barnes & Noble Review
Jeffery Deaver's The Blue Nowhere is a carefully researched, cutting-edge thriller set in the brave new world of information technology. In Deaver's version of this world, outlaw hackers dominate the landscape, and the most significant events take place in "the blue nowhere," the endless plane of pure data and electronic impulses commonly referred to as "cyberspace."
Deaver's hero is Wyatt Gillette, a legendary hacker currently imprisoned for successfully cracking security codes employed by Department of Defense computers. Wyatt is entering his third year in prison when relief comes from an unexpected direction: the California State Computer Crimes Unit. The leader of that unit, Lt. Thomas Anderson, has just encountered a whole new species of criminal, and finds himself in need of Wyatt Gillette's peculiar expertise.
The criminal in question calls himself "Phate." He is, in the common parlance, a Wizard -- a hacker capable of gaining access to the most restricted forms of data, while leaving no trace of his own identity behind. Phate has, for reasons of his own, begun to invade the private files of a number of carefully chosen victims. He uses this private data to infiltrate the lives of those prospective victims and then murders them one by one. Only Wyatt, himself a Wizard of comparable abilities, can discern the pattern that underlies Phate's apparently random brutalities. Only Wyatt has the necessary skills to track his fellow hacker down.
The result is a tense, immensely readable novel that is deeply rooted in the arcane realities of a constantly evolving technology, a technology that has altered the essential nature of modern life, creating a whole new breed of heroes and villains in the process. With great narrative assurance, The Blue Nowhere takes us into the arcane society of the 21st century hacker, giving us a unique -- and convincing -- duel between rival Wizards who are more at home in the world of information than in the quotidian world of mundane, three dimensional "reality." The result is a striking, state-of-the-art thriller that works both as a first-rate entertainment and as a cautionary tale about the dangers implicit in our ongoing love affair with the computer. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
How do you write a truly gripping thriller about people staring into computer screens? Many have tried, none have succeeded until now. Leave it to Deaver, the most clever plotter on the planet, to do it by simply applying the same rules of suspense to onscreen action as to offscreen. Much of the action in this novel about the hunt for an outlaw hacker turned homicidal maniac does takes place in the real world, but much else plays out in cyberspace as a team of California homicide and computer crime cops chase the infamous "wizard" hacker known as Phate. The odds run against the cops. With his skills, Phate can not only change identities at will (a knack known as "social engineering" in hacking parlance) but can manipulate all computerized records about himself. The cops have a wizard of their own, however: a former online companion of Phate's, a hacker doing time for having allegedly cracked the Department of Defense's encryption program. He's Wyatt Gillette, coveting Pop-Tarts (the hacker's meal of choice) and computers, but also the wife he lost when he went to prison and it's his tortured personality that gives this novel its heart as Wyatt is sprung from prison, but only for as long as it takes to track down Phate. The mad hacker, meanwhile, no longer able to discern between the virtual and the real, has adapted a notorious online role-playing game to the world of flesh and blood, with innocent humans as his prey. As he twists suspense and tension to gigahertz levels, Deaver springs an astonishing number of surprises on the reader: Who is Phate's accomplice? What are Wyatt's real motives? Who is the traitor among the cops? His real triumph, though, is to make the hacker world come alive in all its midnight, reality-cracking intensity. This novel is, in hacker lingo, "totally moby" the most exciting, and most vivid, fiction yet about the neverland hackers call "the blue nowhere." Agent, Sterling Lord Literistic. (May 4) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-An engrossing thriller for the electronic age, packed with action, surprises, and adventure. Deaver's killer reaches inside his victims' minds, learns their deepest fears and vulnerabilities, and uses that knowledge to gain access to them. Phate is a techno-genius who has devised a method of invading individual computers and gaining admittance to all the files stored there, including e-mail. Worse, he is gaining "access" to his victims before he kills in what to him is just a real-world virtual-reality game. Faced with an electronics sociopath, the California State Police Computer Crimes Division "borrows" a jailed hacker to help them follow the complex electronic trail of the perpetrator. Wyatt, still facing a year of his prison sentence for ostensibly cracking a Defense Department code, is more than happy to be back online and on the trail of the killer hacker or "kracker." Readers are led to wonder if Wyatt, along with a number of the other characters, is what he appears to be. Besides being an engrossing mystery with lots of interesting characters, The Blue Nowhere is an absorbing history lesson about the Internet, a dictionary of computer terminology, and a compelling, if frightening, description of what is possible, and maybe probable, in our electronically based future.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Just when you thought it was safe to check your e-mail, psychokiller specialist Deaver (Speaking in Tongues) shows just how malignant the human ghost in your machine can be. Jon Patrick Holloway is a hacker who prefers to be called Phateand prefers to use the knowledge he gets about other people from hacking into their systems to set them up for murder. Bored with cracking the encryption codes for Fort Knox and the Pentagon, he's devised a program that will get him into virtually any computer and allow him to scan its memory, reconfigure its software, bring its hard drive crashing down, or give him all the intimate details he needs to worm himself into the user's confidence as he goes in for the kill. But Lt. Andy Anderson of the California State Police, though he's light-years behind the murderous geek, has a secret weapon: Wyatt Gillette, an imprisoned computer wizard he's temporarily freed so that he can go byte to byte with his old cyber-acquaintance Phate. Forget about the halfhearted echoes of that other unofficial police assistant Hannibal Lecter, and the halfhearted linking of Phate's attacks to historic computer anniversaries; what Deaver's really interested in is prolonging the Kabuki dance of his two state-of-the-art cavemen by having each of them endlessly second-guess the other via ruses, bluffs, and more masquerades than Mardi Gras. Despite the real paranoia Deaver's premise taps into, thoughif every computer on earth is subject to tampering, what information can you trust?the constant string of disguises works against development: after the briskly suspenseful opening chapters, there's no place for this endlessly ingenious tale to go. That doesn't mean Deaver doesn't provide his trademark throat-clutchers, diabolical double-crosses, or action scenes that suddenly turn inside outonly that this time there are just too many, and too few memorable characters who live through them.
From the Publisher
San Francisco Chronicle A gripping high-tech page turner.
USA Today A terrific thriller.
People High-tension wired.
Entertainment Weekly The Blue Nowhere is that rare cyberthriller that doesn't make us want to log off in the middle.
San Francisco Chronicle Deaver packs The Blue Nowhere with enough twists and surprises that even the most alert reader will be gulled by the numerous red herrings and narrative decoys....He has the language of technology down cold, but thankfully, never goes over the reader's head. Think of a technical manual with intrigue, fights, chases, and double-crosses. And there's no need to reboot.
Kirkus Reviews Just when you thought it was safe to check your e-mail, psychokiller specialist Deaver shows just how malignant the human ghost in your machine can be.
The Boston Herald Grounded in expert knowledge about how computers actually operate....You won't learn how to break into the Pentagon. But you will get a sense of the allure of cyberspace.
Publishers Weekly How do you write a truly gripping thriller about people staring into computer screens? Many have tried, none have succeeded until now....As he twists suspense and tension to gigahertz levels, Deaver springs an astonishing number of surprises....His real triumph is to make the hacker world come alive in all its midnight, reality-cracking intensity. This novel is, in hacker lingo, "totally moby" the most exciting and most vivid fiction yet about the neverland hackers call 'The Blue Nowhere.'
The Times (London) [A] taut tale.
The Deseret News (Salt Lake City) [A] clever thriller....Neatly conceived and well written. The characters are well developed and believable....[Deaver] builds suspense upon suspense, including odd twists and turns.
Read an Excerpt
The battered white van had made her uneasy.
Lara Gibson sat at the bar of Vesta's Grill on De Anza in Cupertino, California, gripping the cold stem of her martini glass and ignoring the two young chip-jocks standing nearby, casting flirtatious glances at her.
She looked outside again, into the overcast drizzle, and saw no sign of the windowless Econoline that, she believed, had followed her from her house, a few miles away, to the restaurant. Lara slid off the bar stool and walked to the window, glanced outside. The van wasn't in the restaurant's parking lot. Nor was it across the street in the Apple Computer lot or the one next to it, belonging to Sun Microsystems. Either of those lots would've been a logical place to park to keep an eye on her -- if the driver had in fact been stalking her.
No, the van was just a coincidence, she decided -- a coincidence aggravated by a splinter of paranoia.
She returned to the bar and glanced at the two young men who were alternately ignoring her and offering subtle smiles.
Like nearly all the young men here for happy hour they were in casual slacks and tie-less dress shirts and wore the ubiquitous insignia of Silicon Valley -- corporate identification badges on thin canvas lanyards around their necks. These two sported the blue cards of Sun Microsystems. Other squadrons represented here were Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Apple, not to mention a slew of new kids on the block, start-up Internet companies, which were held in some disdain by the venerable Valley regulars.
At thirty-two, Lara Gibson was probably five years older than her two admirers. And as a self-employed businesswoman who wasn't a geek -- connected with a computer company -- she was easily five times poorer. But that didn't matter to these two men, who were already captivated by her exotic, intense face surrounded by a tangle of raven hair, her ankle boots, a red-and-orange gypsy skirt and a black sleeveless top that showed off hard-earned biceps.
She figured that it would be two minutes before one of these boys approached her and she missed that estimate by only ten seconds.
The young man gave her a variation of a line she'd heard a dozen times before: Excuse me don't mean to interrupt but hey would you like me to break your boyfriend's leg for making a beautiful woman wait alone in a bar and by the way can I buy you a drink while you decide which leg?
Another woman might have gotten mad, another woman might have stammered and blushed and looked uneasy or might have flirted back and let him buy her an unwanted drink because she didn't have the wherewithal to handle the situation. But those would be women weaker than she. Lara Gibson was "the queen of urban protection," as the San Francisco Chronicle had once dubbed her. She fixed her eyes on the man's, gave a formal smile and said, "I don't care for any company right now."
Simple as that. End of conversation.
He blinked at her frankness, avoided her staunch eyes and returned to his friend.
Power...it was all about power.
She sipped her drink.
In fact, that damn white van had brought to mind all the rules she'd developed as someone who taught women to protect themselves in today's society. Several times on the way to the restaurant she'd glanced into her rearview mirror and noticed the van thirty or forty feet behind. It had been driven by some kid. He was white but his hair was knotted into messy brown dreadlocks. He wore combat fatigues and, despite the overcast and misty rain, sunglasses. This was, of course, Silicon Valley, home of slackers and hackers, and it wasn't unusual to stop in Starbucks for a vente skim latte and be waited on by a polite teenager with a dozen body piercings, a shaved head and an outfit like an inner-city gangsta's. Still, the driver had seemed to stare at her with an eerie hostility.
Lara found herself absently fondling the can of pepper spray she kept in her purse.
Another glance out the window. She saw only fancy cars bought with dot-com money.
A look around the room. Only harmless geeks.
Relax, she told herself and sipped her potent martini.
She noted the wall clock. Quarter after seven. Sandy was fifteen minutes late. Not like her. Lara pulled out her cell phone but the display read NO SERVICE.
She was about to find the pay phone when she glanced up and saw a young man enter the bar and wave at her. She knew him from somewhere but couldn't quite place him. His trim but long blond hair and the goatee had stuck in her mind. He wore white jeans and a rumpled blue work shirt. His concession to the fact he was part of corporate America was a tie; as befit a Silicon Valley businessman, though, the design wasn't stripes or Jerry Garcia flowers but a cartoon Tweety Bird.
"Hey, Lara." He walked up and shook her hand, leaned against the bar. "Remember me? I'm Will Randolph. Sandy's cousin? Cheryl and I met you on Nantucket -- at Fred and Mary's wedding."
Right, that's where she recognized him from. He and his pregnant wife sat at the same table with Lara and her boyfriend, Hank. "Sure. How you doing?"
"Good. Busy. But who isn't around here?"
His plastic neckwear read Xerox Corporation PARC. She was impressed. Even nongeeks knew about Xerox's legendary Palo Alto Research Center five or six miles north of here.
Will flagged down the bartender and ordered a light beer. "How's Hank?" he asked. "Sandy said he was trying to get a job at Wells Fargo."
"Oh, yeah, that came through. He's at orientation down in L.A. right now."
The beer came and Will sipped. "Congratulations."
A flash of white in the parking lot.
Lara looked toward it quickly, alarmed. But the vehicle turned out to be a white Ford Explorer with a young couple inside.
Her eyes focused past the Ford and scanned the street and the parking lots again, recalling that, on the way here, she'd glanced at the side of the van as it passed her when she'd turned into the restaurant's parking lot. There'd been a smear of something dark and reddish on the side; probably mud -- but she'd thought it almost looked like blood.
"You okay?" Will asked.
"Sure. Sorry." She turned back to him, glad she had an ally. Another of her urban protection rules: Two people are always better than one. Lara now modified that by adding, Even if one of them is a skinny geek who can't be more than five feet, ten inches tall and is wearing a cartoon tie.
Will continued, "Sandy called me on my way home and asked if I'd stop by and give you a message. She tried to call you but couldn't get through on your cell. She's running late and asked if you could meet her at that place next to her office where you went last month, Ciro's? In Mountain View. She made a reservation at eight."
"You didn't have to come by. She could've called the bartender."
"She wanted me to give you the pictures I took at the wedding. You two can look at 'em tonight and tell me if you want any copies."
Will noticed a friend across the bar and waved -- Silicon Valley may extend hundreds of square miles but it's really just a small town. He said to Lara, "Cheryl and I were going to bring the pictures this weekend to Sandy's place in Santa Barbara...."
"Yeah, we're going down on Friday."
Will paused and smiled as if he had a huge secret to share. He pulled his wallet out and flipped it open to a picture of himself, his wife and a very tiny, ruddy baby. "Last week," he said proudly. "Claire."
"Oh, adorable," Lara whispered.
"So we'll be staying pretty close to home for a while."
"Fine. The baby's fine. There's nothing like it....But, I'll tell you, being a father totally changes your life."
"I'm sure it does."
Lara glanced at the clock again. Seven-thirty. It was a half-hour drive to Ciro's this time of night. "I better get going."
Then, with a thud of alarm, she thought again about the van and the driver.
The rusty smear on the battered door....
Will gestured for the check and paid.
"You don't have to do that," she said. "I'll get it."
He laughed. "You already did."
"That mutual fund you told me about at the wedding. The one you'd just bought?"
Lara remembered shamelessly bragging about a biotech fund that had zoomed up 60 percent last year.
"I got home from Nantucket and bought a shitload of it....So...thanks." He tipped the beer toward her. Then he stood. "You all set?"
"You bet." Lara stared uneasily at the door as they walked toward it.
It was just paranoia, she told herself. She thought momentarily, as she did from time to time, that she should get a real job, like all of these people in the bar. She shouldn't dwell so much on the world of violence.
Sure, just paranoia...
But, if so, then why had the dreadlocked kid sped off so fast when she'd pulled into the parking lot here and glanced at him?
Will stepped outside and opened his umbrella. He held it up for both of them to use.
Lara recalled another rule of urban protection: Never feel too embarrassed or proud to ask for help.
And yet as Lara was about to ask Will Randolph to walk her to her car after they got the snapshots she had a thought: If the kid in the van really was a threat, wasn't it selfish of her to ask him to endanger himself? Here he was, a husband and new father, with other people depending on him. It seemed unfair to --
"Something wrong?" Will asked.
"You sure?" he persisted.
"Well, I think somebody followed me here to the restaurant. Some kid."
Will looked around. "You see him?"
He asked, "You have that Web site, right? About how women can protect themselves."
"You think he knows about it? Maybe he's harassing you."
"Could be. You'd be surprised at the hate mail I get."
He reached for his cell phone. "You want to call the police?"
Never feel too embarrassed or proud to ask for help.
"No, no. Just...would you mind, after we get the pictures, walking me to my car?"
Will smiled. "Of course not. I don't exactly know karate but I can yell for help with the best of them."
She laughed. "Thanks."
They walked along the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and she checked out the cars. As in every parking lot in Silicon Valley there were dozens of Saabs, BMWs and Lexuses. No vans, though. No kids. No bloody smears.
Will nodded toward where he'd parked, in the back lot. He said, "You see him?"
They walked past a stand of juniper and toward his car, a spotless silver Jaguar.
Jesus, did everybody in Silicon Valley have money except her?
He dug the keys out of his pocket. They walked to the trunk. "I only took two rolls at the wedding. But some of them are pretty good." He opened the trunk and paused and then looked around the parking lot. She did too. It was completely deserted. His was the only car there.
Will glanced at her. "You were probably wondering about the dreads."
"Yeah," he said. "The dreadlocks." His voice was flatter, distracted. He was still smiling but his face was different now. It seemed hungry.
"What do you mean?" she asked calmly but fear was detonating inside her. She noticed a chain was blocking the entrance to the back parking lot. And she knew he'd hooked it after he'd pulled in -- to make sure nobody else could park there.
"It was a wig."
Oh, Jesus, my Lord, thought Lara Gibson, who hadn't prayed in twenty years.
He looked into her eyes, recording her fear. "I parked the Jag here a while ago then stole the van and followed you from home. With the combat jacket and wig on. You know, just so you'd get edgy and paranoid and want me to stay close....I know all your rules -- that urban protection stuff. Never go into a deserted parking lot with a man. Married men with children are safer than single men. And my family portrait? In my wallet? I hacked it together from a picture in Parents magazine."
She whispered hopelessly, "You're not...?"
"Sandy's cousin? Don't even know him. I picked Will Randolph because he's somebody you sort of know, who sort of looks like me. I mean, there's no way in the world I could've gotten you out here alone if you hadn't known me -- or thought you did. Oh, you can take your hand out of your purse." He held up her canister of pepper spray. "I got it when we were walking outside."
"But..." Sobbing now, shoulders slumped in hopelessness. "Who are you? You don't even know me...."
"Not true, Lara," he whispered, studying her anguish the way an imperious chess master examines his defeated opponent's face. "I know everything about you. Everything in the world."
Copyright © 2001 by Jeffery Deaver