Charles Dodd,
Code 18
(Bedside, 2004)

Science fiction comes in a number of guises. There is out-and-out fantasy, the gruesome horror and the cool, clear and slightly understated. Code 18 falls into the latter category and is one of the best in its class for some time.

The best thriller or horror story is the one that we can imagine happening in our own time, our own town and our own lives. In Code 18, writer Charles Dodd brings us face to face with a very real possible disaster scenario.

We are all slaves to modern technology. The more our lives are eased by the miracles of everyday life the more vulnerable we become. Just consider the everyday miracle of electricity. We flick a switch and we have light plus a dozen other uses. We take it for granted. We never even consider it. Then we get a power cut. Our lives stop. The romantic glow of candlelight is OK for a while. Then we "need" music, we "need" the microwave -- in short the lack of that power gives way to annoyance and anger. The same can be said if we lose our Internet connection or the computer crashes.

Dodd reminds us in a fast-paced thriller that our lives would be crippled by the loss of electrically controlled equipment. But he goes further in letting us know that the potential is there for terrorists, criminals or others to use what he terms an e-bomb to induce such social paralysis.

From the opening scene of a car stalling through to the macabre conclusion, the best way of describing this book is that it is realistic. The characters are credible. The motivation is understandable and the technical explanations are plausible.

The locations read like a James Bond movie. The expertise of the author through his connections with the technology industries and that prerequisite of the good writer -- a "what if this were possible" mind -- combine to make a great page turner that you will gallop through waiting for the next surprise and the thought that this could happen tomorrow.

The in jokes, like the book title, add an essential humour to a cracking good tale.

by Nicky Rossiter
8 April 2006

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