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Cryptoast Novel: Flame War



Flame War, by Jonathan Quittner and Michelle Slatalla,
William Morrow, New York, 1997. 291 pp. $24.00
ISBN 0-688-14366-0

Jacket blurb:

As the U.S. Congress prepares to adopt a state-of-the-art
encryption program with a secret key that would allow
government access to all electronic communications, a
brilliant codemaker stands ready to expose the program's
critical flaw. Together with a determined band of
cypherpunks and hacker activists, he plans to unveil his
own code, which will ensure the privacy of all communication
on the Internet -- and that not even the government will
hold the key.

Fresh out of law school, Harry Garnet walks straight into
trouble when he accidentally delivers a deadly diskette
that explodes inside the computer of a mathematics
professor -- and kills him. In the aftermath, Harry joins
up with the man's clever daughter, Annie Ames, to track
the killer. Ther journey leads from a sleepy Adirondack
town to New York city, where -- with the inadvertent help
of Harry's scheming hacker friend Blaney -- Harry learns 
of the professor's connection to the anarchists and computer
phreaks who make up the underground Urban Crypto Militia.

The group's leader, Lionel Sullivan, is as talented a
codemaker as the professor had been. As the only one of
the bomber's intended victims who has managed to survive,
he can also offer Harry and Anne crucial insights into the
killer's motives. But it's not long before the bomber strikes
again -- this time against Harry and Annie, who still possess
the professor's secret computer files.

In a riveting race agaisnt time, Harry and Annie must navigate
secret networks and on-line fantasy worlds as they struggle to
unlock the professor's final message. It seems to point to a
fatal crack in the Patriot encryption program, which is about
to become the national standard -- and which Lionel and his
group are about to challenge in a dramatic showdown. Unless
the bomber gets to them first.

Jonathan Quittner and Michelle Slatalla's last book, a non-
fiction account of rival teenage gangs in cyberspace, was widely
praised for its novelistic texture and fast pace. Now, in
Flame War, they use their keen jounalistic instincts and eye
for detail to create a fictional world that's as fresh as
today's news -- and a climax that's plausible enough that it
could become tomorrow's headlines.

------

Joshua Quittner creted the website The Netly News and is a
columnist for Time magazine. Michelle Slatalla's work has
appeared in Wired magazine, among others, and has been
syndicated in two hundred newspapers nationwide. Together,
they are the authors of Masters of Deception: The Gang
That Ruled Cyberspace. The live on Long Island, New York,
with their two daughters (and another one on the way).