Ever wonder what events would precipitate a global Internet shutdown? This is a doomsday scenario known by hackers as the Outernet, and D.P. Nicholls wanted to explore this idea further in his novel titled Outernet: Imagine A World With No Internet. Self-published authors such as this one are hit or miss, but my attraction for the post-apocalyptic genre set that concern aside.
Meet Kirk, the typical hacker nerd who enjoys the challenge of his trade simply ‘because he can.’ He has just been freed from his three year tenure in jail for hacking into the Pentagon. Enter Roland Bouverie, CEO of a worldwide journalism mega-center, a filthy rich entrepreneur, and stoutly recalcitrant to the pervasive use of the Internet because it is winning a competitive fight against his outmoded way of thinking. So Bouverie hires Kirk to accomplish what hackers have been speculating about for a decade—cause a permanent occurrence of the Outernet.
Suffice it to say that when you write about an Outernet scenario, you need a reason and a means for this catastrophe to occur. Throughout the entire book several questions tinted my reading. My first question: Is it tenable to hold the weight of this plot, equivalent to worldwide terrorism, on the petty boorishness of a millionaire who refuses to innovate? I had a hard time finding this reason, this motive, realistic. Indeed, how would Bouverie ever have been so successful in the first place without an innovative bone in his body?
My second question: Is it tenable for a brilliant youth to throw the world out the window simply ‘because he can’? I suppose in his support, he had just come out of jail with no job and no prospects, and he was assured he would be rich beyond reason. But still, using Kirk as the means to accomplish this task, as the book portrayed him, did not convince me he would be capable of such.
Did he accomplish Bouverie’s selfish ambitions? Well, it would contradict the title if he hadn’t, so not much of a spoiler there. However, the title still deceives readers into thinking we would actually catch a glimpse at the world without the Internet. In actuality, the book simply glosses over global events after the catastrophe in no more detail and detachment than local traffic reports on the radio. In the midst of this weak plot you will also find unnecessary sexual encounters, unrealistic character development, undeserving support for a certain alluded president, and an unsatisfying conclusion.
The concept of an Outernet is a worthy plot line to explore, as the implications are staggering, but this novel, unfortunately, does not deliver.
[I’d give it two out of five stars]