Recently I stumbled across John Hampel's book Glass House 51. The premise for this story centers around Alphabank, the largest financial institution in the U.S. The powers that be at Alphabank have picked two of their employees, Richard (no last name) and Cristin Darrow to be bait in their quest to draw out Norman Dunne, a reclusive computer genius who is a former employee, and a suspect in a series of murders of young women.
What unfolds is a captivating story about power, greed, and control in the same vent as the classics dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World. In fact, the publishing blurb for the book states, "Glass House 51 is humbly dedicated to George Orwell and Aldous Huxley,,,,,,They saw it coming; they saw it first; they warned us. We learned nothing." In fact, the story that John Hampel weaves in this book is a first rate story that combines all of the best elements of the classic Big Brother stories of the past. Reading the book was like reading 1984, Brave New World, Animal House, and Fahrenheit 451 all rolled into one, with the addition of an exciting thriller threading through the story. I loved the way that the author referred to these books throughout the story, but I also loved the way that he updated the themes presented in the classics to make this book relevant to the current times. The addition of a thriller story line only added to the suspense in the book and really kept me turning the pages.
The main characters in the story were also masterfully done. I love books where the characters continually surprise me, and that happened in this books in many ways. At times I would think that I had a character figured out, only to have them do an about-face. This propensity to change and challenge my thinking of the characters really kept me interested to see what was going to happen next. I loved the way it also blurred the lines between the good and bad guys, and kept me on my toes trying to figure out who were going to be the eventual heroes.
Unfortunately, this book has not gotten a lot of either press or exposure, which is really sad. It is a top-notch story with well developed characters that deal with important issues for our times. Is the story entirely plausible....probably not, but it has a lot to say to us about the information intensive age that we live in and lessons that it would be better to learn through fiction than through real life. Since neither of my sons were required to read 1984 OR Brave New World, I am going to direct them towards this book and hope that is sparks some great discussions among us.