Privicide is a cautionary tale about surveillance, its effects, and our attitudes to it. But this novel is not set in some far-off dystopia. Today’s technology means this future is already here.

The book’s compromised, detached and somewhat unlikable narrator, Berndt, grew up in 1980s East Berlin under the Stasi. Other characters include Irish-American Aidan and his Moroccan girlfriend Nadia. Their intense but volatile romance is picked apart by Berndt, who derides Nadia’s political activism, her paranoia, and Aidan’s response to online blackmail.

Aidan is one of three young scientists engaged in a scientific experiment, living together in claustrophobic confinement. He soon tires of the cameras, microphones and the suffocating intrusions of unseen controllers. Before they can be reunited, Nadia goes missing after she is wrongly implicated in a terrorist attack. In desperation, Aidan hacks a server, where he accidentally finds his colleagues’ most intimate secrets. Berndt reacts violently. Breccnat, a down-to-earth medic, picks up the pieces.

Years pass and technology advances. Nadia is dead, lost to suicide; Aidan has become a reclusive hacktivist, living on the remote coast of Maine; and Berndt is now employed in Silicon Valley. Working on next-generation online invasiveness, his attitudes have mellowed and he hates his job.

Hacking, cyber-security and identity theft, as well as security responses to terrorism and the burgeoning market in personal data are key themes. Throughout Privicide, digital surveillance preys upon the complacent and uninformed. The gullible are coerced to share their most private thoughts and the distrustful suffer hallucinations. Only a daring few fight back. Like the remaining character, Anonymous, who could be either Aidan or Berndt. Conceivably, even Breccnat. The reader is left to work out who is behind the Guy Fawkes mask.

© 2018 Patrick Hartigan. All rights reserved

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