August 20, 2012 | 6 Comments | Mark Russinovich
My reading is technothriller heavy and has been since I was a teenager. Technothriller is a classification I give to books with plots driven by current or near future technology and that tightly integrate teaching the reader about the technology or its implications into their story lines. Technothrillers have been my go-to genre because books that entertain me while leaving me feeling smarter are my favorite kind. It’s often said that authors write at least their first novels for themselves, and that’s certainly the case with me and the technothrillers I’m writing.
This post is the first in a series that shares the technothrillers that I consider the best in terms of their use of technology in an engaging story. Each post recommends one book with a few comments about why I liked it. Hopefully you see at least one you haven’t read and can add to your reading list. Let me know what technothrillers you’ve enjoyed by posting a comment.
My first recommendation, The Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll, actually isn’t fiction, but the plot is so captivating and well-paced that only the best authors craft stories as good. He published it in 1989 and it’s the first-hand account of how he investigated a $0.75 computer usage accounting discrepancy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he worked at the time. That small clue opened a detective case that lead him on a 10-month hunt of a complex cyber espionage scheme aimed at the lab’s government projects and eventually led to the arrest of the criminals. The digital trails lead around the world and only someone with Stoll’s persistence and ingenuity could have cracked the case. We’re lucky that he took the time to document it.
The book is over 20 years old so obviously technologically dated, but that doesn’t detract from the entertainment, and the fundamentals of hacking, malware and cybercrime he presents are the same today as they were then. The Cuckoo’s Egg is a required book for technothriller fans.
After you’ve read The Cuckoo’s Egg, be sure to check out this 1989 Booknotes interview with Stoll about his experience.