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Bad Memory
Duane Franklet
Pocket Books, 371 pages

A review by Leon Olszewski

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Simtec, a computer manufacturer, is struck by a series of misfortunes -- first it is misconfigured shipments, then erased hard drives. Soon an extortion note demanding one million dollars arrives. The damage escalates as the company refuses to pay, instead bringing in a security agency to correct the problems. Yet the vandalism continues. Can the company find the extortionist before having to pay the blackmail, or will it suffer the consequences?

Bad Memory should not be called science fiction, but many who enjoy science fiction or a good story will still find it an enjoyable read. It would be more accurate to call it a techno-thriller (though there are no spies) or a techno-mystery.

The time is now and the technology is current. Duane Franklet, in his first novel, accurately describes the computer and business worlds, and where they intersect. The story is told from the viewpoint of Barry Shephard, the head of the direct sales division. Through his eyes, you see the world crumble as the "Hektor" and his group of "consultants" remove the certainties in his life. Certainties like the fact that his files will be on his computer when he boots up, that the data is safely backed up every day and week, and that his family is safe, even in a guarded community, no longer exist for him.

The story reads like a network administrator's nightmare. Someone is on the network, seemingly unstoppable. All the tactics to control the person are ineffective and each retaliation grows in severity.

As a computer professional, I approach stories about computers with some trepidation. Will the author get the details right, or will I cringe as they make mistakes even newbies will recognize? Duane Franklet knows his stuff and he puts most of it in terms that all but the worst computerphobes will be able to understand. He has captured the essence of computer security, that sense of paranoia that someone, somewhere, is out to get you, your network, and your computers. The author shows the vulnerabilities of computers and computer networks, the disasters that can result from the wrong person exploiting those vulnerabilities. He almost makes his point too well and makes you fear that you will never feel safe again:

"But from now on you should know that you will forever think of your resources- -your infrastructure, your personnel--differently. Once you are past the immediate concern, you will not again sleep easily at night, because you will be thinking about your data, your network, your privacy and your ability to do business. You will never again sleep easily until you know that all of these are safe."
[W. S. Dunn] paused, then added, "Not think they are safe. Know they are safe."
The story flows smoothly and the suspense builds well. However, except for Barry, the characterizations lack depth. The climax also was disappointing and left a plot hole or two in its wake. Still, the office politics of hi-tech business -- and the depiction of inter-office squabbles -- are well-done. As cliché'd as it may sound, I did not want to stop until I knew what was going to happen. Bad Memory is what I consider a quick-read, a story which keeps your interest but is not necessarily thought-provoking. The technical discussions about computers, operating systems, and networks may be a bit too detailed for non-technical readers, but will be no problem for most SF readers. I recommend the book to anyone who reads hard science fiction or the latest from Tom Clancy.

Copyright © 1997 by Leon Olszewski

Leon Olszewski is the Manager of Network Services at Spyglass, Inc., and has recently moved to Illinois, with his wife Lela. They estimate that half of the weight of their move was comprised of their book collection - ranging from science fiction and fantasy (of course), to quilting, lions, and an extensive collection of Marilyn Monroe biographies. Leon hopes to read some more fiction soon, but maybe one that deals less with his work-life.

Bad Memory
Duane Franklet Related Links
Duane Franklet has done computer troubleshooting for Fortune 500 companies and around the world. He is the president of his own company, Data Tracking Associates, based in Houston. This is his first novel.

Duane Franklet Home Page
Data Tracking Associates

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