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by Matt Richtel
Harper, January 2013
433 pages
ISBN: 0061999709

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

What happens on a late night subway platform soon leads investigative journalist Nat Idle into a tailspin. Is someone trying to kill him, or is it all a set-up with a sinister purpose? This is the premise that begins THE CLOUD, a fascinating thriller, not just for its taut suspense, but also for the many questions it poses for all of us who depend on technology.

Idle is nearly killed at the subway station, but even his escape from death wreaks havoc, when a resulting concussion plays tricks on his brain. Not only does he begin trying to piece together just what is going on in the present, but the past seems like a thick cloud, muddling his thoughts. As a result, this is an intertwining of stories, one personal, one professional, both of which are baffling to the injured man.

Author Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist himself and a New York Times reporter covering technology. He uses those skills and knowledge base to craft an excellent thriller, in which he not only weaves a mesmerizing tale of technology-gone-wrong, but also exposes the ugly downside of technology, which is so rarely covered in the media and marketing rush to sing the praises of the next great device or capability.

As one of Richtel's own characters notes, "Technology is like food. We need it to survive. But some technology is like brussels sprouts and some is like Twinkies." Here, Richtel exposes the danger of too many Twinkies, a technological diet that can lead to the equivalent of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

He also uses the story to point up the dangers that lie with both democratic and Communist forms of government in coping with technological challenges, among them how to deal with runaway technological advances that can prove lethal. There are no easy answers, but plenty of food for thought.

All that said, this novel is completely enjoyable, with edge-of-your-seat action sequences and plenty of thrilling plot developments. It's got brain and brawn, and in the able hands of its author will leave its readers with something to think about.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, February 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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