cover image The Termination Node

The Termination Node

Lois H. Gresh, L. Gresh, R. Weinberg. Del Rey Books, $24 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-345-41245-4

Late one night, while double-checking a bank's security system, computer security specialist Judy Carmody detects an electronic intrusion from a superhacker who uses the handle Helraze. Using techniques Judy has never seen, Helraze is able to steal millions of dollars from the bank's accounts in minutes. But before Judy can notify the bank's director, Helraze replaces the stolen money and disconnects, leaving no traces of his maneuver: his prank was a test for a much larger crime. Judy's amazement turns to fright as the smartest hackers she knows begin to disappear, and two thugs show up at her apartment trying to kill her. She manages to escape, and with the help of a band of loyal hackers she begins to uncover a sinister conspiracy led by Bob Ingersoll, the shady director of the National Security Agency. To further his aims, Ingersoll manipulates 17-year-old genius Cal Nikonchik, who has invented a powerful new computer code based on the principles of human genetics. Judy must struggle furiously to protect her life and decipher Cal's dangerous innovation before the world sinks into chaos. The characters created by computer security expert Gresh (The Computers of Star Trek, etc.) and two-time World Fantasy Award-winner Weinberg (Dark Love, etc.) can be a bit wooden; the hackers' social incompetence, in particular, is sometimes exaggerated to the brink of parody. Nonetheless, the authors generate an exciting plot that boasts enough authentic high-tech detail to make the criminal possibilities of electronic finance seem very real, and just a few mouse clicks away. (Jan.)