Apoc­a­lyp­tic NYC thriller likely to land on big screen

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Wendy Sawatzky

MIKE Mitchell has a prob­lem: his wife might be hav­ing an af­fair with a neigh­bour down the hall from their pricey Man­hat­tan condo. Also: the world is end­ing. So be­gins Cy­ber­storm, a new apoc­a­lyp­tic thriller by Matthew Mather. Mike, Cy­ber­storm’s pro­tag­o­nist, is a ju­nior part­ner in a New York ven­ture cap­i­tal fund. He eloped with Lauren Sey­mour, who gave up her job as a lawyer to sstay home with Luke, the cou­ple’s new son. Mike wants a sib­ling for LLuke, but Lauren wor­ries about get­ting her law ca­reer back on track; he thinks Lauren’s spend­ing too much time with Richard, the for­mer foot­baller down the hall. The cou­ple’s fam­ily drama is in­ter­rupted by a string of dis­as­ters. A bird-flu out­break hits sev­eral U.S. cities. Viruses in­fect global lo­gis­tics, bring­ing down sup­ply and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems. In­ter­net and cel­lu­lar sys­tems grind to a halt. The power goes out. A sys­tem glitch shuts down the city’s wa­ter sup­ply. Two “Franken­storms” pum­mel the city, leav­ing three-me­tre snow­banks and sub-zero tem­per­a­tures. For­tu­nately, Mike’s neigh­bour and best friend Chuck is a dooms­day prep­per. Chuck and his wife’s sur­vival­ist sup­plies — freeze-dried food, wa­ter, gen­er­a­tors, night-vi­sion gog­gles and in­frared flash­lights — al­low the group to hunker down and ride out the storm. Chuck and Mike form the head of a loose group of friends, neigh­bours and refugees from the out­side world who band to­gether to sur­vive, or­ga­niz­ing fuel and wa­ter runs, ra­tioning food and se­cur­ing their sup­plies against in­trud­ers. By Day 10, the city’s san­i­ta­tion sit­u­a­tion is grim. By Day 14, their food is run­ning out. By Day 28, there’s seem­ingly no op­tion but to flee. The core group’s skills and traits help them, and the book’s plot, stay alive as the cri­sis deep­ens: Tony, the door­man, is an Iraq vet­eran with com­bat skills; the el­derly Rus­sian cou­ple next door sur­vived the siege of Len­ingrad; New York Times jour­nal­ist Rory serves as a lib­eral foil for char­ac­ters de­bat­ing civil lib­er­ties; hacker Damon is glued to his lap­top, hatch­ing plans that help the group sur­vive. Those tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions pro­vide the fresh­est read­ing in Cy­ber­storm, which is other­wise a some­what for­mu­laic stag­ing of two-di­men­sional char­ac­ters fa­mil­iar to fans of the “mod­ern apoca­lypse” genre of dystopian fic­tion. The group buries looted food in snow­banks, then uses a geo­caching app to mark their lo­ca­tions. A mesh net­work al­lows New York­ers to com­mu­ni­cate with their smart­phones with­out cel­lu­lar ser­vice or wire­less In­ter­net. The book is a bit long; the last 100 pages seem ex­tra­ne­ous and the last 20 pages, ex­plain­ing ev­ery­thing that hap­pened, seem writ­ten as a movie epi­logue. That may be the case; the book’s film rights have been op­tioned. Per­haps the film adap­ta­tion will give weight­ier roles to fe­male char­ac­ters who, de­spite a strong start with Lauren’s ca­reer con­cerns, are rel­e­gated once the apoca­lypse hits to back­ground roles as wives, moth­ers and care­givers. Mather, dubbed a “leading mem­ber of the world’s cy­ber-se­cu­rity com­mu­nity,” deftly de­tails the po­ten­tial pit­falls of tech­nol­ogy de­pen­dency. Those who don’t en­joy pit stops for de­bate or tech­ni­cal ex­pla­na­tion might want to wait for the big-screen ver­sion to come. Wendy Sawatzky is as­so­ciate edi­tor, dig­i­tal news for win­nipegfreep­ress.com and com­man­der-in-chief at

wendy­sawatzky.com.

Cy­ber­storm

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