I'm currently behind on reviews, so don't be surprised if the recent reviews are a bit sparse.

Red Team Blues

Cover of Red Team Blues.

James Bond, if he were 67, and very annoying and performative and prone to info-dumps about tech. The entire book is so weird – painfully inoffensive, not pushing a topic (except maybe “non-bullshit blockchains are possible”?), flat, unevenly paced, awkward … I felt so odd reading it. Was this a fanfic about his friends? Why does this book exist? Who is this written for? (nobody at book club had an answer). It’s not for the nerds, we know this stuff already. It’s not for anybody else, because nobody else cares.

Also, there are so many infodumps. There is so much privilege. The protagonist’s character arc starts at “I live in an 800k tour bus and am happy” to “I made 300 million dollars and get to fuck the hot girls”. There’s max privilege everywhere, and while there is the occasional uncomfortable lip-service to seeing systemic issues, there is … none of that? Martin Hench rides off into the sunset. That’s it.

idk man, it’s kinda a nerd power fantasy, but even for those, it’s super weird and aimless. I should be into any and all books about forensic accountants, especially when written by people who remember what UUCP and the alt hierarchy are and who know how to be properly tech paranoid, but this wasn’t it. I kinda want this book but written by Charles Stross, in pre-Brexit times, before everything conspired to escalate slightly ahead of his publishing schedule. A forensic accountant in early Laundry days? Yup yup yup.

(At least he put “Thank you to Steve Brust and Bruce Schneier for your early encouragement on this one.” in the end, not on the cover, or I’d have been even more disappointed.)

Plot summary

Beware: full spoilers! Also probably incomplete and possibly incomprehensible.

Martin Hench, 67, is a forensic accountant, travelling the country in his 800k touring bus, the Unsalted Hash. Danny Lazer (“old Silicon Valley, a guy who started his own UUCP host so he could help distribute the alt hierarchy”), huge rich retired genius dude, hires him to find the source of his leak of his illegally-gained private keys for the secure enclaves on majore phone platforms. He needed those for his new explicitly-non-evil (let’s bash Bitcoin and Ethereum a bit, yay) blockchain project he’s working on with his 25-y/o wife Sethu, who rescued him after his first wife’s death. (Cory got that much right.)

Working on his usual 10%-of-profit terms, Martin gets going, after introducing some more side cast. He investigates the data centre, and is good at it, and finally, after a bit of paranoia and mild condescension towards immigrant workers, finds the kids who stole the keys dead. Figures out where the keys are. Danny destroys them, Martin is 300 fucking million dollars richer. We get treated to some info about how wealth works.

Danny dies. Martin doesn’t get suspicious. Martin’s tour bus nearly blows him up. Martin still doesn’t get suspicious. People tell him something’s up. He finally figures it out. Oh, also, after Danny’s funeral, sleeps with his wife. Homeland security picks him up, keeps him in a safehouse for a bit, but things turn fishy and he escapes. He talks to people, slums it with hobos for a bit while researching (or, well, letting others research). He feels a bit bad for the poors. He figures out who of the competing international crime syndicates is responsible for which part of the debacle, and resolves the problem (for him, they still kick off the crime war Homeland security was trying to avoid, oh well). Fucks his girl and rides off into the sunset, then rides off into the sunset some more.