The Blue Nowhere is a novel set in the information age in the center of Silicon Valley, a land where savvy computer geeks and genius misfits program/design/hack/crack with fingertips of gold. It offers readers a view into the world of the true Internet, a world beyond the operator friendly menus, shopping sites, and pop-up ads that most users associate with the web. The novel, published in 2001, depicts many scenarios that still strike home in a shockingly realistic fashion today: identity theft, the true availability of personal information on the web, the variability of computer crime, and the lack of viable resources to truly combat computer crime. One of the things I couldn’t help but wonder as I read the novel is how much computer crime has evolved in the seven years since this book was published. For example, “According to an IBM study, by 2010 the amount of digital information in the world will double every 11 hours.”
Global digital information doubling every 11 hours? Assuming that the research findings from the IBM study are reasonable, it begs the question of how anyone could maintain pace with this type of growth. Even taking inventive software creation into account, one wonders how this could possibly keep up with the vast scope of information on the Internet, as well as the seemingly limitless opportunities to do right or to do wrong.
This will make the study of ethics in relation to technology even more applicable. For those who balked at bringing Wyatt Gillette, a convicted computer criminal, into the investigation of the death of Lara Gibson to help with the “hacking,” necessary to solve the case, they must consider what will be necessary or considered ethical in the future. Utilizing the theory of Kantian ethics, bringing in Gillette to help with the case would be considered ethically wrong. Andy Anderson is using Gillette as “means to an end” to help him solve the crime, violating Immanuel Kant’s Practical Imperative, “Act to treat humanity, whether yourself or another, as an end-in-itself and never as a means.”
And yet, considering what would have happened had the enforcement officers NOT used Gillette as a resource, the case would most likely never had been solved. CCU officer Stephen Miller didn’t even catch the fact that Lara Gibson’s computer contained Unix code, the East coast version at that. Had Gillette not noticed this small, yet vital piece of information, the discovery of Phate’s identity (Jon Holloway) would have been greatly delayed, if it had been discovered at all.
Overall, I find this novel intriguing, and I enjoy the various twists and turns that Jeffery Deaver “networks” into this novel. Readers are forced to confront their own ethics when reading this story. Is Gillette “good,” “bad,” or somewhere in between? He potentially breaks the trust of Officer Bishop when he escapes to visit his ex-wife, simultaneously breaking the law as well. Gillette is a man that the law apparently does not apply to, and yet most readers identify him as a hero. Is this because of his curiosity and charming rebellion, or is it in response to the contrast between him Jon Holloway, who appears so glaringly immoral? Readers know that murder is wrong, but what about hacking into your ex-wife’s email, learning about the man she is currently dating, her travel plans, etc.?
I look forward to discovering how Gillette will finally track down Jon Holloway, as well as the plot twists I will encounter before reaching the ending. Where in the “Blue Nowhere,” is Phate truly lurking, and how will he ultimately be found?