Rogue Code

2014-06-02

Paul Baccas

Proofpoint, UK
Editor: Martijn Grooten

Abstract

Paul Baccas reviews the third novel in Mark Russinovich's Jeff Aiken series.


Title: Rogue Code: A Jeff Aiken Novel

Author: Mark Russinovich

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

ISBN-13: 978-1250035370

Rogue Code is security researcher Mark Russinovich’s third novel featuring the main character Jeff Aiken, and like the previous two (Zero Day and Trojan Horse), is a modern techno-thriller with equal emphasis on both techno and thriller. The plot revolves around the world of high finance, particularly High Frequency Trading (HFT) and IPOs, and is mainly based in and around Wall Street. The timing of the book is particularly fortunate in that both editions of The Times (London and New York) feature in their list of non-fiction best sellers Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis, which describes the world of HFT and how it has changed share trading, and the market, forever.

As in the previous two novels, each chapter is introduced with either a memorandum or a vignette of the people/things affected by the rogue code – this does not hamper the pace of the book, and in fact adds to its depth. The characterization of the minor characters has improved since the first novel in the series, and I suspect that we may see some of them appearing in future books (as a protagonist, Jeff Aiken has at least three more major malware/computer security themes to tackle). There are several side themes that suggest that more stories may be in the pipeline: Jeff’s relationship with colleague Daryl, and the internecine strife between (ex )members of certain three-letter agencies with current (or former) members of other three-letter agencies.

Mark knows his subject in depth – and any area in which he doesn’t have direct experience, he researches, and that shows. Sometimes the explanations and details are superfluous after the first mention (for example, detailing the manufacturer, type, and model of the bad guys’ firearms wasn’t necessary more than once). Perhaps taking out the exposition of the story and adding an Afterword or Addendum with some of these details would help to keep the flow smooth and fast.

I enjoyed the latest instalment of the Jeff Aiken series and would recommend you consider this for your summer vacation reading. Mark seems to be on an 18-month product release cycle and I look forward to version 4.0.

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