Eliot Peper

47North/Amazon 2018 

Eerily, Eliot Peper’s futuristic-thriller, Bandwidth, mirrors today’s reality with computer hackers manipulating voters, government policies made via Twitter and world leaders confronting climate change.

Protagonist Dag Calhoun is a successful Washington lobbyist who has manipulated legislative votes so client Lowell Harding can unlock vast pristine areas for oil exploration. Then, Harding gets Calhoun to torpedo international support for a national carbon tax. 

In Peper’s story, international business controls things with daily feeds from “Commonwealth,” a digital infrastructure that acts as a “living membrane around a bundle of services.” The system is considered a reliable “fortress” with a “secure backend” system. 

Dag soon discovers subversive cyberspace geniuses and psychologists, part of a progressive political and environmental activist group, have been able to hack into “Commonwealth.” The intruders have been exploiting feeds to influence how individuals view the world and make decisions. One of their targets is Dag. For a decade the group has been hacking his feed, manipulating his desires, political views and relationships.

. . . a dramatic, fast-paced and well-researched thriller laced with believable characters.

The group snares Dag by inviting him to a room where his current and past life is digitally projected, including information only he was aware of, in particular, the treatment he received while raised in foster homes. They want Dag to use his persuasive talents to ensure world leaders vote in favor of a carbon tax. This action would mean Dag has to violate his company’s agreement with a client and financially ruin his closest and only friend, Seth. 

Peper has superbly webbed a dramatic, fast-paced and well-researched thriller laced with believable characters. Most valuable is the narrative that prompts one to wonder how our algorithms may be engineered in the future, and how technology will influence us when we are confronted with corruption and injustice. It’s timely and offers much food for thought as the United States awaits results of the investigation into Russia’s influence in our elections, and how Facebook was complicit in influencing voters.