Probably every city dweller in the developed world has had a thought or two about our dependence on technology. It’s no use reminding yourself that your ancestors managed without refrigerators when yours goes on the blink in mid-summer. And when several modern necessities betray you at the same time – your computer crashes, your car won’t start, and the boiler bursts – you might even start to panic.
So imagine the disaster when a group of cyber-terrorists sabotage the inter-connected electrical grid in a number of European countries and the U.S., and do it in a way that means it will take a long time to resume service. In “Blackout”, first published in German in 2012, Marc Elsberg provides a detailed analysis of the devastating domino effect of loss of electricity on modern life. All systems, from food production to medical care and sanitation, from transport and communication to manufacturing, grind to a halt within days. After more than a week without power many thousands have died and the world is headed for a deep economic recession.
In an afterword, Elsberg says that many professionals concerned with the security of infrastructure such as electrical grids and power plants have consulted him in light of the extensive research he did for this book. I hope it helped.
Aside from the unpleasant timeliness of the subject, it’s not a bad thriller, although Elsberg’s technique of jumping around among a large number of actors in many places makes the writing choppy.
A talented Italian hacker manages to figure out who the culprits are and how they did it, getting stabbed, shot, and chased by the German police in the process. And on the way, he meets a nice girl.