Review: Phantom Wheel

This was an advanced reader copy for the October 2018 publication. There are minor spoilers ahead.

Title: Phantom Wheel

Author: Tracy Deebs

Stars: ★★

Black hat or white – hackers fascinate me. I loved Garcia on Criminal Minds, and while the rest of my family watched Arrow for the title character, I adored Felicity. An interesting pair there – female, glasses, white (despite Garcia’s surname which comes from her step-father), so I was glad to see more diversity in Phantom Wheel until we looked into their finances.

Maybe I’m an optimist who believes anyone with curiosity and access to a computer (via library / school or other) can become a hacker. The majority of these characters, however, come from rich (often tech parents) backgrounds. Maybe their mistakes are how they were found by Jacento. Having only one of the six have a non-political reason (or – you know – one who isn’t just ‘bored’) makes me really hope that those numbers don’t carry over to actual hackers. Come on, my whole admiration for the computer savvy is the self-made. I guess I rarely consider boredom rather than necessity as a motivator.

Otherwise, the entire plot makes zero sense. Even suspending my disbelief that a huge company would hire outside help when they could easily pull someone in house (and likely do have white hats). Just because someone’s a ‘white hat’ doesn’t mean they don’t do bad stuff, it just means they do their hacking in a security / ethical / job manner. This could’ve been a completely different story of white hats rebelling against the company or the reality of walking the hacker line (gray hats).

Ultimately, not a bad book but not probably for aspiring hats of any color. There were moments where I – not a hacker and someone who barely works with python and only vaguely knows C++ – had ‘wait, that’s not right’ moments. I reached out on GoodReads to see if the author had any advisors. No update so far. If I get a response, you all will be the first to know.

Everything outside of the hacker / privilege question – cliche all the way. Big bad corporation uses and then ditches a group of doe-eyed kids. Then the kids come back. Could also be phrased as ‘I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids!’ Wouldn’t really recommend buying. Maybe if you see it free in your local library and don’t care about “hack-uracy.”

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