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Walter Jon Williams’ Deep State

by C. Ross Jam on July 6, 2011

Deep State Cover Finished up Walter Jon Williams latest technothriller Deep State. Deep State is the sequel to This is Not a Game, which I read previously. In that story, Dagmar Shaw is an accomplished puppet master of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). While unexepectdly caught up in a revolution in Indonesia, Dagmar discovers the crowdsourcing power of her player base, which gets her out of a tough scrape. Upon returning to the states, she becomes enmeshed in a murder plot where again her players help sort out the mystery.

Deep State follows the same themes, although I think it almost takes the puppet master concept a bit far. After running a successful game in Turkey, she gets hired by some part of the US Intelligence apparatus to destabilize Turkey, which has recently succumbed to a military coup. ARGs, the Internet, and international politics collide in a quite messy fashion.

Overall, despite a number of flaws Deep State is a satisfying read. Williams didn’t reveal much hesitancy in Dagmar taking on her new gig, which I thought a bit implausible. USGOV made nary an appearance, despite political unrest in a NATO partner. And as a card carrying member of the Defense Industrial Base (TM), turning around clearances that fast is hard to fathom. Plus, her team maintained crappy OPSEC.

Also, I was waiting for a much bigger, and more cynical, reveal at the end. And the copyeditor did a subpar job in my book.

In any event, Deep State, like it’s predecessor is a solid near future thriller, with some tech elements obvious to anyone with even a shallow Internet background. If anything it’s been overtaken by events a bit, but I can still recommend Deep State.

Next up: Stross’ Rule 34, apparently another victim of the acceleration of modern change.

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