Saturday, May 20, 2017

“Kill Process” by William Hertling – Angie and the Electronic Goliath

Kill Process by William Hertling - book cover

An Accelerated Evolution

A mere few years ago the term social networks wasn't even a thing because there was really only one, MySpace, and the relative few who used it (at least in comparison to today's social networkers) didn't give it all that much thought or importance. However, fast forward to today and it's impossible to imagine a world that isn't dominated by Facebook feeds, Twitter posts, Instagram snaps and whatever else we may have. We are experiencing an accelerated cultural evolution, to the point where we may very well be the first people who have the ability to feel nostalgic about memories from only five or ten years ago, the first to see countless inventions become obsolete one year after the next. There are some who applaud these advances and claim them to herald a new golden age for technological progress, while on the other hand there are those who pay more attention to the dangers involved.

Regardless of which side of the fence William Hertling may find himself on, in his novel Kill Process he certainly manages to place the spotlight on both the positives and negatives of our digital development. To keep it short, we follow the story of Angie, a data analyst with more than twenty years of experience who uses her position in the world's largest social networking company, Tomo, to track down domestic abusers and “takes care” of the true monsters. One day, she comes to realize that a new product her company released is nothing but a scheme to prey on the fear of its users and their insecurities for the sole purpose of making more money. And so, she starts to see her employer as nothing more than those domestic abusers she's been uncovering and sets her sights on a truly dangerous opponent with limitless power: Tomo. Needless to say, the world's largest technology company isn't about to simply keel over and die and they intend to crush the one-armed programmer with every hammer they've got... not to mention that a shadowy agency has sent a psychopath on her digital trail.

Knowledge in Spades

The first thing I would like to mention is that Hertling is a very prominent figure in the world of software engineering, going as far as owning various digital patents. He has spent most of his life in that world and that puts him in a better position than virtually anybody to write a novel centred on programming. Needless to say, he didn't waste his talents in the slightest and included many details and explanations that make the story much more believable.

There are too many authors who prescribe nigh-magical and supernatural powers to their hackers, to the point where we feel like we're back in the era where typing quicker meant hacking faster. That's not the case with this novel at all for anything related to programming is firmly anchored in reality, feels logical and doesn't really require you to suspend your disbelief. If anything, by the end of it you'll find that you have a better understanding of how social networking functions.

A New David for Another Goliath

If we look at the story in the vaguest of terms, then what we have is another David vs. Goliath situation, or Angie vs. Tomo if you will. We all know how the story is going to eventually end, but the whole point here is the chase rather than the catch. This very modern take on the old concept affords Hertling many opportunities for creativity and originality, and ultimately it's just a real thrill and pleasure to watch Angie manoeuvre through a razor-sharp gauntlet where the slightest wrong move could cost her everything.

Angie is a very likable protagonist who finely skirts the line between empowered and realistically limited; she has her strong and her weak suits, a factor that makes her feel human and more down-to-Earth than many of the picture-perfect heroes we tend to encounter. This makes it easier to relate to her, the thinking process she goes through, to understand why she makes the decisions she does. Her past is certainly interesting and provides a welcome distraction from the ugly affairs she's embroiled in.

As you might imagine, Hertling has a lot to say about social networks, how we use and abuse them, power over the internet, technological advancements, and so on and so forth. His opinions and observations can be found quite often throughout the pages, even if they are not always obvious. He never sounds preachy or like he's trying to convince you of anything; rather, it's just an objective sharing of knowledge. His meditations definitely raise some interesting concerns about our future and whether or not we are growing too big for our britches.

Some Final Words

Killing Process by William Hertling is one of the best novels based on the world of programming out there, gleaming with a mix of legitimacy and captivation. The author's extensive personal experience as a software engineer lends this book all the credibility it needs and his writing prowess sucks you in with the help of likable characters and a twisted plot that ventures into many dark and unexpected places without ever straying too far from the path. If you enjoy thrillers about hackers with violent danger and psychopaths mixed in then you certainly can't go wrong with this book.

William Hurtling (January 6, 1970)

William Hurtling (January 6, 1970)

Personal site

William Hurtling is an American writer of science-fiction as well as a programmer, co-founder and Director of Engineering at Tripwire. Apart from obtaining numerous software engineering patents he has also written some very notable books, including A.I. Apocalypse , The Last Firewall and Avogadro Corp.

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