“Cumulus” by Eliot Peper – near-future thriller that’s stronger on ideas than people

cumulusI enjoyed “Cumulus” for its energy, the strength of its ideas and its ability to extrapolate current technology, political and social trends into a plausible and engaging near-future.

As a thriller, I found the pace a little uneven and some of the plot twists, especially the later decisions of the chaos maker in the book, a little too convenient. This is one of those books that reaches for William Gibson, matches him for ideas but misses on the ability to provide an understated plot and characters you care about.

“Cumulus” is told in the form of a thriller, bringing together the mulit-billionaire founder of a huge cloud technology company who is sees herself as on a mission to shape a better future, a jobbing photographer addicted to analog photography who aspires to be an investigative journalist. and a ruthless ex-CIA agent pursuing a personal agenda of subversion.

Along the way they explore the consequences of the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest, the increasing impotence of government and law enforcement and the impact of using a tiered access model for technology services that builds in exclusion of the poor and the vulnerable.

I found myself giving “Cumulus” as sub-title: “Palo Alto Dreaming” as it comes from the mindset of the new generation of Silicon Valley hopefuls who acknowledge the social consequences of the technology that they’re building and are who are trying to control a genie that they can’t get back into the bottle.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Eliot Peper. I like his ideas and his boldness. As he gets better at pacing the plot and in giving his characters voices that are as interesting and distinctive as their backstories, I think he’ll become a writer to watch.

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