A Chamber of Secrets

Turing’s Delirium is a fictional take on the inner workings of a South American government as a former dictator, now president, prepares the country for elections. The president must suppress the revelation of illegal activities of members of his cabinet and deal with the demands of powerful insurgents that oppose his plans for selling gas and oil leases to an international consortium.

The initial scene of this fiction noir introduces Miguel—a government employee known as Turing because of his success with cryptography during a critical stage of the dictatorship’s rise to power. Turing, a holdover from the dictatorship, has little to do as he bides his time in a small office in the Black Chamber, the former office of Secret Intelligence. One day he opens his top-secret email to find a cryptic message that says that he is an assassin. How did someone hack into the secret government email system? Who is the hacker? What does the message mean? These are the key questions, the author must unravel in this suspenseful political thriller.

Turing is being shunted aside by the new Director of the Intelligence who is an ally of powerful members of the cabinet; he is a younger man trained in computers and information science. However, Turing has powerful friends and is the custodian of the archives of the Black Chamber.  Until Turing is removed he can access records detailing the brutal crimes committed by the former dictatorship and these records could destroy the government if they were revealed.

There is a loosely organized but powerful revolutionary group opposing the agenda of the new president. The leader of this group, known only by his chat room handle Kandinsky, is a computer hacker working to destabilize the government. He would use the secrets in the archive of the Black Chamber to defeat the government and allow a reform candidate to be elected. Kandinsky has a plan to achieve this end and Turing is the focus of that plan.

Flavia, Turing’s daughter, is also a computer whiz, and she is fond of computer chat rooms. Unknowingly, she frequents the chat room of Kandinsky.

Turing’s former boss, Albert, knows first hand the details of the events recorded in the archives of the secret chamber, but he is ill and delirious. His delirious ravings contain clues for Turing to unravel as he tries to understand the meaning of the mysterious emails he receives.

This is a complicated novel with a well developed plot and interesting characters; the novel explores unusual aspects of cyberspace where fiction noir meets political suspense in South America. The author is a native of Bolivia and a graduate of UC Berkeley—knowledgeable about the workings of the fictional Southern Country of the novel, and knowledgeable about the internet and cyberspace. This is a believable story that held my interest. I enjoyed it well enough to re-read it recently.

Day 15: Turings’ Delirium (Edmundo Paz Soldan) (2007).

About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure; Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical; Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked.
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