Clarke is at it again, using the novel as a way to tell tales he probably couldn’t get away with in non-fiction. The focus here is on the nation’s communications apparatus. Some nation or group has set about bombing the cables that connect the USA com-network with Europe. Several communications satellites have been hacked and redirected to places other than their usual geostationary orbits. Experts in data and communications and their facilities are being destroyed.
Is it the Chinese who are behind it? Could it be that some other entity is trying to remove the “global” from “global village?”
Illuminated by the dark goings-on there is much discussion of impending scientific advances, some of which could be anathema not only to America’s rivals but to groups within the country.
Clarke trots out familiar types for this educational enterprise of his. They are paper thin, which is ok. The book is competently written, if clearly done by a writer who is no lion in this particular savannah. It is the ideas that are important here, not the characters. It is a cautionary tale of what might be possible, told in an engaging manner by someone who knows a whole lot about the subject he covers.
And Clarke helpfully adds a section After his tale is told in which he identifies the contemporary basis for the notions explored by his futuristic scenario.
Clarke may be the best informed guy on the planet regarding his subject matter and he is worth reading for this alone. That he gets his information across in such an engaging manner is a large plus.
Notions here include “transhumanism” – a philosophy (p 44) that espouses using genomics, robotics, informatics, nanotech, new pharma…to change humanity into a new species.”
Globegrid – The Globegrid Project – a plan to merge the largest US supercomputer farms with ones in France, Russia and Japan to create one virtual machine.
“Living Software” is a huge program designed to write applications sans errors. This is a fantastic notion, used for literary effect, but there are elements of it that are interesting. The software is network based, of course, and asks every system with which it comes into contact if it would like to have a copy downloaded and installed. Once in, the system normalizes software to conform to the LS standard, making them error free. Twenty two years as a programmer inform my view that this is not bloody likely.
There is a place in which the characters view a real-time 3D model of data flow in the internet. Way cool.