Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, by David Shafer

19161864Privacy is an illusion these days. None of us reads the terms and conditions when we sign up for stuff, let alone when they’re updated. Our data—even data we don’t know we’re creating—floats around in the digital ether. Theoretically, laws protect us and our data from being used for nefarious purposes. In David Shafer’s science fiction thriller, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a cabal of companies and intelligence workers have joined together to corner the market on the world’s data, intending to lease access or monetize it however they can.

Leila Majnoun first runs up against the Committee in Myanmar. She works for a company to distribute humanitarian aid and maybe set up a scholarship for women to attend nursing school in the States. (The heads of the company mostly just tank each other’s projects.) One day, while she’s up country fighting with the local representatives of the junta to get her medical supplies, she overhears a conversation by a pair of American contractors that she wasn’t supposed to hear. The next thing she knows, her work gets even more difficult and her father is charged with possession of child pornography. Meanwhile, Leo Crane, the bipolar scion of a game-making dynasty starts to go off the rails and write about the many conspiracies he sees online. His college friend, Mark, has found success after writing a management philosophy book. He knows he’s a fraud, but he desperately hopes no one finds out.

The three characters don’t meet until almost halfway through the book, after they receive job offers and threats from the Committee and their opposition, Dear Diary. The Diarists have interesting technology, but they’re running out of time to make their stand against the Committee. They’ve collectively decided that Leila, Leo, and Mark are their last, best hope. The book ends with a cliffhanger. We’ll have to wait to see if Dear Diary succeed in their quest.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has received high praise from critics. It is funny, in a snarky kind of way. Shafer has dead-on observation about a lot of our technology dependent society. The problem I had is that there are a lot of ideas that aren’t developed in this book. I would have loved to know more about the Dear Diary organization and their plant-based technology. The plot takes so long to develop that, when I got to the end, I felt cheated.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 5 August 2014.

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