Title: Executable File
Author: Dave Cohen
Genre: Techno Thriller
This novel covers the rather uncertain career of Dan File, a superhacker who was so bored in college that he began tweaking his football-playing roommate’s grades for the fun of it. After that escapade, he began downloading the oppositions’ playbooks and sharing them with his school’s team.
His electronic antics went unnoticed for some time, but at last, the discrepancies became apparent. Dan was too smart to leave any evidence behind, but his college scholarship was revoked all the same and he was asked to leave the school.
So he finds himself a retail geek job, selling products people don’t need to earn a higher commission and messing with his boss just for the fun of it. Then, a college classmate contacts him, saying a new company is interested in an idea they used for a school project. He gets him a new job and it looks like the beginning of success for Dan—not with girls, perhaps, but at least where his finances are concerned.
But then things take another turn for the worse. Dan targets his new bosses and plays juvenile pranks on them, but he soon discovers they aren’t nearly as incompetent as they seem. One of them has a vengeful streak, and after Dan gets him fired, trouble ensues.
The story is more of a mystery than a thriller, a sort of puzzle for readers to figure out as it starts with Dan on a prison bus, headed for a state penitentiary. In a scene that has parallels to The Fugitive, the bus has an accident and the men aboard are set free, giving Dan and his football-playing-roommate, who also was also wrongly sentenced, a chance to clear their names.
Sadly, the biggest turn-off could be the main character, as he has few friends or connections of any kind. He checks on his parents every so often, but he tends to focus on himself and his own problems, which can make it very hard for a reader to truly root for him.
Unlike most thrillers, this isn’t the kind of tale where you worry about the well-being of the characters every page of the way. There are a few points of worry and tension, and a few great surprises as loose threads return to haunt Dan, but for the most part, the joy of the story is in trying to figure out how a geeky and rebellious troublemaker gets himself framed for murder, and then in waiting to see if he can get himself out of the mess. Since the story is told from Dan’s point of view, there are times when the terminology gets fairly technical, but one doesn’t need to be a geek to enjoy the story.
Anyone who likes a tale of justice gone wrong and a man’s struggle to right things, told with plenty of sarcasm and humor will enjoy this story. It’s a steadily-paced tale of one man’s witty, irreverent attempt to enjoy his life, despite how illegal his hobbies tend to be.
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