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Chuck Wendig
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Samuel R. Delany
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Geek Mafia: Black Hat Blues

Geek Mafia: Black Hat Blues - Rick Dakan I mentioned in my review of Mile Zero that I enjoyed Geek Mafia because it was fun. Mile Zero touched on that fun, but part of what let me down was that where the first book in the series was from Paul's perspective, Mile Zero picked up the perspectives of the other characters in the story, most notably Chloe. I get it; Chloe's now someone to trust, and having part of the story from her perspective reaffirms that notion. But getting outside of just Paul's head made the mystery less impactful, since now we couldn't experience his uncertainty as well.

Black Hat Blues takes that notion one step further, by adding additional point-of-view characters, most of them new to the crew. Chloe, Paul, and the gang have moved on from small-time swindles in Key West to full-scale cons in Washington, D.C., and they've picked up a few hackers on the way. That's fine, but the new characters are immediately trustworthy because we get to see the world through their eyes. I missed that device of not having everyone's input to keep me wondering how everything was going to play out.

In addition to those new point-of-view characters, Dakan also winds us back and forth through time as he sets up the story for us. First we start off in the present, with the con getting started. Then we jump back a bit to see how one of the hackers came on board. Then we jump back to Chloe in later times, and then back again to another hacker, who's also telling his story from the past. It wasn't confusing, necessarily, but it felt very messy. Neither Geek Mafia nor Mile Zero were told that way, and Dakan was still able to bring in new characters without having to break time in order to get us familiar with them. I wish that Black Hat Blues had followed that format to some degree. The new characters are necessary to the story, so it's not that they're in there just to fill up space. Dakan brings three new characters into the crew, and we need to know a bit about them and how they were brought into the group. I just wish that the story had been told more linearly, instead of hopping all over the place like a hyper kangaroo.

I also had more issues with the publisher and their printing conventions. I noticed a lot of typos (a couple of "the the"s and other repeated words, a lot of missing articles and other words, some commas in the wrong place, the use of "peak" to describe someone looking surreptitiously around a corner, and even a egregiously misused "it's" and even the use of "their" for "there"), and they used words in ALL CAPS instead of italics to emphasize a particular word. It struck me as something I would read online instead of in print, and it distracted me whenever I came across it. The novel also veered into Cory Doctorow territory, where Dakan provided a lot of info-dumps to make sure the reader was on board with all the hacking activity. I'll give Dakan credit, though, since that kind of thing was necessary for the story, but the method of getting those info-dumps across was a little out of place. For good measure, though, he made sure to name-drop Doctorow in the first 25 pages or so. After that, I sort of knew how the rest of the novel would play out.

For all that, though, the novel is about on par with Mile Zero in its entertainment value. Neither book measures up to how much fun it was to read Geek Mafia, but honestly, I read the first book seven years ago. I'm not even sure how I would feel about that one if I went back and re-read it today. Regardless, I'd definitely recommend folks read the first book, but as for the two sequels, I don't see them as being necessary.