The focus of my blog is to review book series and not standalone novels, but I am going to make a rare exception for Eliot Peper, writer of the Uncommon series because the author asked me if I could review his latest novel, Cumulus, and I couldn’t say no. I love his Uncommon series, and I was excited to get a chance to read material outside the series.
A few days ago, I watched the latest episode of HBO’s series VICE for which they interviewed Edward Snowden on the present state of privacy. Snowden’s response to the interview was that surveillance is more prevalent than ever, and that the government not only has the capability of listening in on our phone conversations, but also has the capability of knowing where we are located and where we go. Snowden also mentioned that the government’s mass collection of metadata is also ineffectual on the war on terror mainly because the amount of data that has been collected is so vast, it is impossible to detect an anomaly that would indicate plans for a possible terrorist attack. The reasoning behind all this is that the state of big data management and analytics, the ability to use computational means to find correlations between large sets of data, is still in its infancy. But that is quickly changing as research into data analysis is fueled by big business which wants to know more about you, so they can make more money off of you. It won’t be long before everything about you, from what you eat for breakfast, to the time you go to bed will be neatly tucked away in the technological cloud to be easily accessed with the touch of a button. The scary part is that government will eventually have that capability too.
Eliot Peper’s new novel, Cumulus, takes a glimpse into the future when the corporate world does finally reach the point when data analytics is good enough to strip every individual of their privacy and use it in very destructive ways. Peper’s fictional corporation is San Francisco based Cumulus, which is headed by CEO Huian Li, a highly driven individual that has only tunnel vision for the corporate success of Cumulus. Li’s short-sighted vision for Cumulus is to achieve an outcome that would better humanity, however she can’t see beyond the bubble that surrounds her which leaves her vulnerable.
One junior executive that takes advantage of Li’s vulnerability is Graham Chandler, an ex-intelligence agent that believed the ‘Agency’ that he had worked with was out of touch with the realities of the world, so Chandler left the Agency to pursue what he felt was ‘real’ espionage and Cumulus was the place to do it. In some ways Chandler’s goals are not different from Li’s in that both believe that what they are doing is in the best interest to society, but unfortunately both can’t see beyond their short-sightedness. It takes a simple photographer, Lilly Miyamoto, to show both of them the error of their ways.
Cumulus is short and sweet, a fun novel that can be read in an afternoon. Overall, I enjoyed Cumulus, but my only complaint is that the ending was rather abrupt. It is a must for those that like futuristic dystopian fiction.
For those of you that enjoyed Eliot Peper’s Cumulus you might take an interest in his Uncommon Series.