Monday, March 3, 2014

The Revolution Will not be Televised, but it will be Tweeted.

A bit of preface to this entry. A few years back, a friend of mine recommended I read a book by Walter John Williams. Sadly, I wasn't able to find that book until recently (I know own the paperback and the nook version), but the library DID have a book called This Is Not A Game. That particular book followed a character named Dagmar Shaw around as her ARG (Alternate Reality Game) went off the rails and wound up with murder and Russian Mafia hits.

I found out recently, and quite by happy accident, that Mr. Williams has since released 2 more books about Dagmar. The first, Deep State, is much like it's predecessor in the very layered approach as to what the heck is actually going on.

The prologue introduces us to two geek at an American listening post in the mountains of Turkey. They've been trapped for a few weeks due to a military junta displacing the government, making it impossible to do anything resembling their contracted jobs. As the military approaches the listening station, they try to escape, but find out as they stop at a monastery, that they have the XBox, not the laptop with the very classified files on it.

Cut to: Turkey a few months later, where Dagmar and her Great Big Idea team are running an ARG to promote the new James Bond movie, Stunrunner, featuring Ian Attila Gordon, a Scots pop star. Most of the puzzles have to do with crosswords that are roughly the same in Turkish and English, making it easier for players in Turkey and North America to play along. However, during a stop in Ankara, Dagmar and her crew get to forcibly meet General Bozbeyli, now president of Turkey and leader of the junta. While the entire thing is a PR event, Dagmar ends up trading veiled barbs with Bozbeyli, who in turn makes life difficult as the game rolls into Istanbul (not Constantinople).

As the game ends, one of Dagmar's liaisons, Lincoln, hires her for government work. This sets up the next part of the novel, as Dagmar, a few of her Great Big Idea people, and some hires of Lincolns converge at the RAF Airbase on the Greek side of Cyprus. Their mission, astroturf a revolution in Turkey to overthrow the ruling junta. Using crowdsourcing, spam e-mail, and a few instigators on the ground, they set off at achieving this goal, which takes up the bulk of the book.

There's much thematically here, as we see echoes of the Arab Spring, with news going out via twitter... Revolution creep, wherein other countries start demonstrating with the Turks... Using crowdsourcing to get information needed to advance the goals. There's also push back from the junta, whom no one believed to be technologically savvy. It actually reads a bit like the old movie Hackers, only a lot more informed on what's possible.

Mind you, it's obvious Williams has researched Turkish culture and civilization, and he does an ok job of getting most of it across. However, parts of it sent me running for wikipedia and other online resources looking for better explanations of what the heck he was talking about. Which I found really can't be explained in simplified terms. (Alevi, Kurds, TCP/IP....)

What I'm left with after reading is a desire to see Turkey myself, maybe even sailing the Bosporus myself to Greece. My suggestion would be to keep Google Image Search open, to get a feel for the sights as the characters find them, from the Hagia Sophia to the phallic stone where Aphrodite first walked out onto the sands of Cyprus.