I have tried over my government career to help policy makers see what was around the corner, what was coming next, what they should begin to think about before it happened. Since being in the private sector, I have tried to do the same through speeches, op-ed, and through fiction. Why fiction? Ask yourself how many people will become aware of the threat from terrorists with nuclear or radiological material ("suitcase nukes") by watching the Fox TV show 24
versus how many would watch a serious documentary on the same subject by PBS Frontline
. Novels, particularly thrillers, reach a broader and different audience than non-fiction. As I wrote about my first novel, The Scorpion's Gate
, sometimes you can tell more truth through fiction.
In The Scorpion's Gate I wrote about a Secretary of Defense who, in 2010, is plotting to get us involved in a wider war in the Arabian Gulf, hoping to lock up access to the region's oil, and possibly throwing us into conflict with Iran. In the backdrop, political contributions were influencing the way the Administration and key members of Congress looked at the issues. The novel also dealt with the lack of American understanding of Islam, including the differences between Shia and Sunni. Today there are rumors of a planned US strike on Iran and the global competition for that region's oil continues. Unfortunately, unlike in the book, Americans and Arabs have not yet come together to find energy alternatives for the world in order to increase the stability and security of the region.
Breakpoint is set in 2012, five years from now. Given the ever accelerating pace of technological change, I have real difficulty imagining what the world will be like more than five years out. Breakpoint is also in the form of a thriller, but it focuses not on the Middle East but on the US. What will happen in the US because of that accelerating pace of technological change?
Today there are people who are concerned about limiting a woman's right to choose, about the teaching of evolution, and with stem cell research. Some have resorted to violence. What will happen when there are major advances in robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, neurology, pharmacology, computer science… when human-machine interfaces and implants are common, when children can be bred not only with genetic defects removed but with genetic enhancements added?
In Breakpoint, somebody is attempting to destroy the technological facilities making scientific advances. They are using the vulnerabilities that exist today in cyberspace, in our computer controlled networks.
In chapter two, the US Air Force discovers that a satellite has been destroyed by an ASAT (anti-satellite weapon) and they believe that China is behind the attack. (Note: China actually fired an ASAT and destroyed a satellite last week in the real world.) As the attacks increase and our technological edge is set back, Susan Connor and Jimmy Foley, two unlikely agents, try to find out who is doing the attacks and why, what they will destroy next, and how can they be stopped. Along the way, Susan and Jimmy discover a world of emerging technology that Washington did not fully understand. They also run up against Chinese intelligence, Russian mobsters, right wing zealots, and a lethargic bureaucracy.
Breakpoint takes place across eight days in March, 2012.
After the novel, an author's note explains which of the technologies in the story are real and where they are in their deployment or development.