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Cyberscam 2000
Gary Sutton
Hard Shell Word Factory, 96 pages

Art: Mary Z. Wolf
Cyberscam 2000
Gary Sutton
Gary Sutton has been the CEO of Internet, burglar alarm, aerospace, garbage and printing companies. He's authored two business books, holds several patents and started 4 businesses. Gary Sutton studied at Iowa State, Harvard and Oxford. He and Nancy, his wife of 35 years and a teacher, live in La Jolla, California.

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Hard Shell Word Factory

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

If I had received the manuscript for Cyberscam 2000 for critique in a writing workshop, or from a friend, it would go back to its author with a lot of annotations. I think the first thing I'd say would be, "be sure to read material which is as similar to what you want to write as possible." In this case it might be Tom Clancy, but it's frankly hard to tell. It seems likely to me that Gary Sutton has had little or no previous experience writing fiction. Not only is his prose style generally flat and without panache, the plot of this e-book is not carefully thought out.

Sutton is the author of "two previous books, including best-selling Profit Secrets from a No- Nonsense CEO." That passage appears on the disk jacket (I guess e-books have disk jackets as opposed to dust jackets). As soon as I read it, warning lights started blinking in my head. For good reason, I was soon to learn.

Cyberscam 2000 purports to be a techno-thriller about an attempt by a band of international criminals to crash the Internet and simultaneously take control of a new form of global transportation. All, you understand, with the goal of ruling the world. I don't really understand what they expect to gain by crashing the Internet, but that may be because I found my attention wandering while I was reading this thing. Cyberscam 2000 reads exactly like software documentation, which would be fine (well, not really) if it were a tome on IIS4 or NT servers, but is otherwise what we webmasters call "A Bad Thing" when it pertains to fiction.

Engineers Kelly and Suki (do they have first names? Or are these their first names? Sutton never bothers to tell us) have devised a new method of transportation. Although no one ever says so, it's a chordal transport, whereby underground modules are slung along a chord of the planet's radius. No investors will give them the time of day until the ill-spoken Mr Boris (no first name, again, or maybe no last name -- I'm not clear on that), head of an international crime syndicate coughs up the bucks. Of course, all he wants is to rule the world, and he sees this transportation system as a means to that end. That, and taking control of the Internet.

But don't ask me why or how! I swear, I read through this whole book (really a novella) without getting a shred of insight into any of these characters or what the hell they were up to. Here's the gist of Boris's plan, taken verbatim from the book:

"'How many Internet servers under our lease this moment?'
He listened and clenched both fists.
'Not enough, this moving, that reach 1% of capacity by 2000 to execute control.'"
Say what?

Never once does Sutton take us aside into an interior monologue on the part of any of his characters; never once does he use the words "feel" or "believe" in connection with what they may or may not happen to be thinking. The whole book is written cinegraphically. That is to say, we see all the characters' actions described, and their dialogue, but never once do we get inside their heads. And no, I don't think that this was done deliberately.

In the hands of a capable writer, this rather tricky stylistic device can work wonderfully well. For example, Algis Budrys' science fiction classic Rogue Moon was written cinegraphically. But Budrys was even then a seasoned writer in control of his craft.

The jacket blurb says, "Crash the Internet -- Seize global transit -- Rule the world." Huh? Even if our boy Boris managed to seize control of this chordal thingie, what about transcontinental jets? Or transatlantic ocean liners? They are never mentioned. And rule the world how? To what end? We never see what kind of military might, if any, this guy commands. Nor do we have the least inkling of his ideology. In other words, nothing hangs together.

The whole book, in fact, is taken up with Kelly and Suki's attempts to get their drill machine to work, and with the efforts of Boris to make it as tough on them as possible. But since he needs their machine as part of his world-domination scheme, I never really understood why he was busting their chops so bad.

Oh, characterization? Well, Suki has a club foot that she's kinda sensitive about, and Kelly's got issues about opening up to people. There's an epilogue in which Suki dies of breast cancer. But since she was never alive as a character in the first place, it had absolutely no effect whatsoever on me.

Cyberscam 2000 (a terrible title, by the way) just limps along like poor ol' Suki. If I were standing there I'd trip it, kick it, and rip off its wallet.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at

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