So what happens when one company attempts to know *everything* about an individual, and there are no checks and balances on that type of power? That's the general framework for the novel Glass House 51 by John Hampel. It's an interesting story where a number of already-present technologies are combined and played out to some extreme (but not entirely unthinkable) conclusions.
The story revolves around Richard Clayborne, a rising star of AlphaBanc, and his involvement in what initially appears to be an assignment to catch a hacker and potential murderer. AlphaBanc is more than just a financial institution, though. They've become a massive data warehouse that is working on tying together every bit (no pun intended) of information on a person. Using massive computing power and secretive routines, they know more about an individual's life and motivations than the person themselves. But their ultimate goal is not just knowing everything about a person, but being able to actually control what they do and how they act. As Clayborne gets deeper into his assignment, he comes face-to-face with some scary truths about AlphaBanc that show just how far-reaching people will go to have complete and total control over society.
As with much near-future science fiction, you need to make sure you don't too get caught up in the "near" part of "near-future". While it's true that much of what goes on in the novel isn't reality (at least now), it's not a complete stretch to travel down the "what if" path. And in reality, that's where I saw the most potential in Glass House 51. I thought the dialogue tried a bit too hard in places to be "real", in that the spelling and punctuation attempted to capture drawl and mannerisms. There were also a couple of gaps (which I won't go into for spoiler purposes) where I was wondering if I had missed a chapter or two (or just didn't remember because my ambien had kicked in or something).
Still, all things considered, Glass House 51 was one of those books that continued to grow on me the longer I read, and by the end I was hooked.
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
John Hampel romped through the 60s watching "Leave it to Beaver," and "Sky King" (and Penny ... Penny, Penny, oh God, Penny, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul ... oops! forgot where I was ... ), stumbled through the 70s (surviving somehow), got into computers in the 80s (it was the thing to do), picked up an MBA in the 90s (it was just (sigh) the thing to do), and currently lives and works in Wisconsin.