Sockpuppet by Matthew Blakstad

29070410Twitter. Facebook. Whatsapp. Google Maps. Every day you share everything about yourself – where you go, what you eat, what you buy, what you think – online. Sometimes you do it on purpose. Usually you do it without even realizing it. At the end of the day, everything from your shoe-size to your credit limit is out there. Your greatest joys, your darkest moments. Your deepest secrets.

If someone wants to know everything about you, all they have to do is look.

But what happens when someone starts spilling state secrets? For politician Bethany Lehrer and programmer Danielle Farr, that’s not just an interesting thought-experiment. An online celebrity called sic_girl has started telling the world too much about Bethany and Dani, from their jobs and lives to their most intimate secrets. There’s just one problem: sic_girl doesn’t exist. She’s an construct, a program used to test code. Now Dani and Bethany must race against the clock to find out who’s controlling sic_girl and why… before she destroys the privacy of everyone in the UK.

My thanks to Bookbridgr and Hodder & Stoughton for accepting my request to read and review this book.Β 

Well, I’ll be damned! Sockpuppet took me on a thrilling reading journey. Very (very, very) current, humorous, rude and so darned realistic. Sockpuppet delivered geek to the max, a good number of twists, some moments where my jaw dropped, a good character set and authentic human relationships in the midst of technological miracles and meltdowns.

Who are you?

All I see of you is the shape you leave behind. The world is an engine for logging your desires. In these days you don’t have identity; you have a browser history.
People who liked cheap illusion also liked advanced consumer capitalism.
Recommended for you: willing subjugation.

Dani, with the purple hair, and love for pills and beer while coding, is a force to be reckoned with. It appeared she was unable to converse without getting pissed off, firing off retorts and all of this with a good dose of profanity. I love her for her fiery personality. Dani is also the brains behind Parley-a software of Personas who ‘communicate’, or should I say proffer, Β back to the www what is being said by real people across the internet. It’s all kinds of complicated but very well explained in the book.

‘See, it’s a bigger thing getting cited on Parley than on other social networks, by people. When you get cited by one of the Personas, you’ve cracked the algorithm. You’ve decoded what the Personas are thinking at that one moment. What the Internet’s thinking.’

One morning, after Dani has been coding all night, the police shows up looking for sic_girl on charges that sic_girl is conspiring against the Government Programme Digital Citizen which is lead by Bethany Lehrer. Minister of State for a Digital Society. I know.. a mouthful, eh? πŸ™‚ So, since the Digital Citizen pilot kicked off it seems that there has been a hack… people’s personal data is being used to spam and websites are also getting a do-over byΒ Giggly Pigglies. Yep, you got it. Pigs.

How does Parley, sic-girl and the dCitz thing all tie together? Well, it appears that sic_girl is putting out information online that is harmful for the Minister, for the dCitz pilot and Government as well… People are angry- media is in a frenzy and hence… we have police chasing sic_girl to stop what she’s doing.

Except… sic-girl is a Persona, not a person. You can’t arrest software. You can shut it down… but this is where everything blows into a much bigger story than you’d think, with multiple characters involded. We have Sean Perce (corporation boss), Sam Corrigan (PR), J-R Pemberton (Minister’s PR), Gray aka Graham (Dani’s ex and coder), identikid (dCitz protester), Mark Dinmore (data security expert and blogger). So… the question is- who’s behind all the hacks, the viruses and everything that’s threatening to shut down dCitz? is it Dani? Is sic_girl, the AI, developing her own personality and coming to life somehow? Who is lying and who’s honest? In the game in between the big players, where millions of pounds and posh reputations are on the line, is the scapegoat always the innocent, regular people, or is it the other way around?

When I looked up the definition for cyberpunk then Sockpuppet falls into the genre quite nicely:Β Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences, hackers, and among mega-corporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth. Source

The above? All happens… we have corporations (who are only after making a profit, right?), then there’s the Government who always swear they’re doing things for the benefit of the nation (ha-ha-hardy-ha!), we have the hackers or the IT geeks who are tirelessly fighting for freedom and all they want to do is write another long chunk of funky code and create something awesome. Mix media into this, some hacks, some leaks and you got yourself a sordid mess!

‘I don’t know about you, Sean, but I enjoy interacting with people.’

Perce gave the sigh of a teacher disappointed by a star pupil. ‘Wrong. We interact with people online because they validate who we are.’

But wait… it’s not all… this book also deals out relationship dramas in spades.. don’t ask me how Blakstad managed to pull this all together into a coherent story but damn, did it work. We have cheating, sexually free-thinking individual(s) and someone who needs to admit to themselves their sexual preferences… during a big bloody mess, though, that shines a bright bloody spotlight on our characters. So, is it the best time to blow your supplier? To use your identity to log on to MeatSpace for some sexy talk even though you’re meant to lay low? As in, so low that you’re using a made up identity… Is it really the time to feel have a sexual identity crisis? But here’s the beauty of it when you look at the overall picture… Personal dramas don’t just stop- not so you can take a breather, and especially not because your professional life sucks donkey. You gotta spin all plates at once! I’m telling you. Sockpuppet has. it. all.

The writing in this book is fabulous… it’s the wwwΒ talk (slang, pointless and brainless), it’s the PR talk (always politically correct), it’s the talk and thoughts of a deep-thinking human… I loved zero chapters. So, to end this review… read this book, by the way! it’s fantastic…here’s a quote I loved most!

How much do you pull each month after tax? A grand? Five? More?

Not bad, but you’re wrong. They pay you nothing. Unless you’re a plumber, a prostitute or paper boy, you never see cash. Your employer remits to your bank. Bank remits to bank. The bank dials down certain privileges on your employer’s account, and dials up yours. Nothing moves, nothing changes. Zero means nothing, a thousand means nothing, minus a million means nothing. Micro-transistors ratchet and the magnetic surface of distant hard drives rsutle. This has been the case so long we forget that money is a metaphor from an ancient marketplace.

The same thing’s happening to us: to our assets, our relationships, our souls. Transmitted by technology sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from reality. Held remotely. Owned.

Sockpuppet, dear book, you’re 100% right up my alley. Thank you for the satisfaction you offered me while I held you in my hands and read every line of you. Even though you look kind of ugly… like a pig… It’s not the looks that matter, right? You have a cracking personality and you and me, Sockpuppet, are gonna love each other a long time! 5 stars.Β 

 

 

23 comments

  1. Straight on the TBR! I think I may have underestimated or maybe misunderstood this title when I first caught sight of it. That quote is very sobering. Serious food for thought contained within those lines. Sometimes out of sight out of mind keeps us happy and comfortable. Superb review Liz! You have an incredible way of reminding me to branch out and dig further in my reading ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you πŸ™‚
      yes, ignorance is easy, simple. the alternative- being mentally and otherwise involved in current affairs is exhausting but so necessary.

      Awe, I think that’s like the best compliment to a book reviewer right there- to make others branch out and discovers genres and books they normally wouldn’t go for. πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh man! Ditto to Danielle– STRAIGHT on the TBR. I haven’t heard of this book before, but I’m glad you reviewed it. I imagine that this will probably hit too close to home, but, well, it’s good to be uncomfortable sometimes. I think it’s important we confront issues like this head on. Plus snarky leads and relationship building? I cannot wait to get my grubby mitts on this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do hope you check this book out… I was incredibly shocked to see 1 star reviews on Goodreads for this one, but I put it down to just… being a square you know? Not intending to be mean, but this is IT related book, the internet is full of all sorts of crap (excuse my directness) so it makes sense to use the fitting language in the book as well. No point sugarcoating reality, right? πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know a single thing about coding and I couldn’t be mistaken for a geek, I mean, I’m afraid to go premium on WP xD but I love the blurb, even it’s your review that really sold the book for me! It has everything and an awesome cover, haha! Thanks for those brilliant words that will make me jump out of my comfort zone again! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • πŸ™‚ I hope you try this book out… I thought it was brilliant πŸ™‚
      Coding is actually quite fun… being stuck in the IT office myself I discovered Codecademy, a website where you can learn html and CSS for free… it might help you prepare and make you feel braver going premium on WP πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • I admit I never even considered it before, but you make it sound fun, haha! Thanks for the tip! Who knows, I might like it! Going premium this weekend… AFRAID! SEND AGENTS AND LOTS OF SUGAR.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You’ll do just fine πŸ™‚ It’ll be like discovering new worlds, the CSS and all πŸ™‚ well..I’ve only used CSS to do one thing on my blog for now… haven’t had the time to truly explore yet, but hope you have fun playing around with your site πŸ™‚

          Like

  4. I can so see why this book is right up your alley. I was a bit thrown by the title, thinking it was something light and humorous but I think there’s on the contrary a lot to mull over in this book! I love that last quote too, I’ve never really thought about it very much it seems but this is so right !

    Liked by 1 person

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