While Deborah was defending her non-book-snob status last week, I was also coming to terms with my own. And I guess here is where I must admit that I’m a bleeding-heart-book-snob. I think there are books filled with nuance and beauty and books that are thinly veiled propaganda abounding in oversimplification and poor writing (and that it’s not all subjective). I also think that juvenile fiction is written for and should probably be enjoyed mostly by juveniles. But hey, sometimes I also think my oldest was sent to this earth only to punish me for some crime (like cutting the heavenly corners) that I committed in the pre-earth-life, so take this all with a camel-sized GRAIN OF SALT.
However, I have nothing against a good escapist read now and again. And Jessica Draper’s “Hunting Gideon” is just that. Draper details the near-futuristic story of Sue Anne Jones, a single Mormon and an FBI non-special agent, a cyber-stalker for the “good” guys who defend against the terrorists that inhabit the hyped-up version of the Internet, called the V-Net. She, along with her quirky and darkly humorous partner Loren, wittily deconstruct the game-like V-Net and at the same time sometimes begrudgingly defend its creator, Paul Stanton. The plot centers around Sue and Loren’s attempt to stop a brilliant cyber-terrorist named Gideon and his Robin Hood attacks against big business. Gideon’s messages to the media and specifically to Sue frame the attacks in religious terms forcing Sue to defend not just his victims, but religious life as well.
I usually dislike action-driven novels, preferring the pretentious and plodding psychological depth of a character-driven piece. However, when the writing is good, action can be as addicting to me as a haunted and nuanced chick-lit heroine. My favorite part of the book was the dialogue between Sue and Loren. Here’s an example of Loren and Sue’s response to being assigned to Gideon’s case:
‘Perfect match,’ Loren drawled. “You’ve heard ‘set a thief to catch a thief,’ right?…Well, this is set a religious fanatic to catch a religious fanatic.’
I made a show of looking around for something to throw at him. ‘Sounds more like you’re the one they want. Set a nutty social reformer to catch a nutty social reformer.’
But the dialogue isn’t the only strength of the novel, Draper creates an alternate reality within the V-Net that is interestingly believable. In fact, It made me rethink my dislike of video games, made me want to be able to visualize the 1s and 0s that make up the underworld of computer programming and it was a unique literary tool that Draper executed competently.
There are twists and turns in the novel, but no deus ex machina a la Dan Brown. There are traditional power struggles and not-so traditional ones. There is the undercurrent of a risky love-story with the meat of the novel that doesn’t need it. One weakness of the novel is the more than obvious descriptions within the first few pages (‘And I, Sue Anne Jones of the FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center–the NIPC…’).
And although “Hunting Gideon’ is no ‘Angle of Repose’, and it’s probably no ‘Ender’s Game’ either, if you like science fiction and enjoy encouraging LDS artists, it’s well-worth your time. Personally, I’m excitedly awaiting Jessica’s next novel. (And if you want to check ou her earlier series, you can buy it here).