Barry Eisler’s THE GOD’S EYE VIEW
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Review By: Daniel Boucher
From the cover:
NSA director Theodore Anders has a simple goal: collect every phone call, email, and keystroke tapped on the Internet. He knows unlimited surveillance is the only way to keep America safe.
Evelyn Gallagher doesn’t care much about any of that. She just wants to keep her head down and manage the NSA’s camera network and facial recognition program so she can afford private school for her deaf son, Dash.
But when Evelyn discovers the existence of an NSA program code-named God’s Eye, and connects it with the mysterious deaths of a string of journalists and whistle-blowers, her doubts put her and Dash in the crosshairs of a pair of government assassins: Delgado, a sadistic bomb maker and hacker; and Manus, a damaged giant of a man who until now has cared for nothing beyond protecting the director.
Within an elaborate game of political blackmail, terrorist provocations, and White House scheming, a global war is being fought—a war between those desperate to keep the state’s darkest secrets and those intent on revealing them. A war that Evelyn will need all her espionage training and savvy to survive. A war in which the director has the ultimate informational advantage: The God’s Eye View.
When a book’s dedication is “For the whistleblowers” it’s probably safe to assume that what you’re about to read contains some controversy.
While the underlying story to God’s Eye is fiction, the technology at play is very much rooted in reality. In fact, when I read that the USPS photographs every single piece of mail, I was shocked to learn that this is a process and has been in practice for years. That’s right folks. Ever mailed a letter or package? Smile, you’re on camera (okay, so maybe not you, but you get the idea). Seriously, Google it. It’s a real thing.
As a self-proclaimed tech-geek, I really liked the appendix that Eisler provided, sharing every link, article and story that he referenced in God’s Eye. While “God’s Eye” itself is a piece of fiction from the inner workings of Eisler’s brain, its technology exists, and is in use with every day items. Chances are you’re exposed and don’t even know it.
What’s that? You don’t believe me?
Do you have Facebook Messenger installed? Congratulations, Zuckerberg has permission to access your phone’s microphone and camera whenever he pleases–without having to ask your permission (after its initial install anyway). Not only does the End User’s License Agreement (EULA) grant those permissions, but there’s some other little golden nuggets buried in there as well–like the ability to disable your phone’s camera if it so chooses. In an area that the Government doesn’t want you to photograph or shoot video? No problem. Just issue a remote command through your already installed app and voila! A $600 paperweight.
Welcome to Sheephood, where not all that glitters is gold.
Seriously, you all need to get better about reading the EULA’s before installing apps.
Now, that doesn’t mean that good ole Mark is about to start listening to your conversations at home, but, in the wake of the recent FBI/Apple fiasco with unlocking an iPhone, there’s no guarantee it’ll never used beyond it’s intended purpose.
(side note: I refuse to install FB Messenger)
(side note to my side note: this doesn’t guarantee that I’m not exposed by some other FB app policy in effect)
Similar to Marc Goodman’s (also terrific read) FUTURE CRIMES, Eisler’s THE GOD’S EYE VIEW exposes some of the darker risks of technology. Eisler drags the shady-side of tech and government kicking and screaming out into the light, so it should come as no surprise that the former CIA Operative would bring real-world whistelblower Edward Snowden into focus.
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Eisler paints Snowden as a saint, but I definitely got a sense that he has respect for the guy.
The fact remains that Snowden exposed the underbelly of our own government’s abuse of power–all in the name of keeping “the people” safe. At one point in God’s Eye, NSA Director Anders recognizes the fact that if he creates enough fear, people would willingly surrender their liberties. He even goes so far as suggesting a micro-chipping program–like what you do to your pet, only for humans.
Think this far-fetched or alarmist? Consider the fact that Donald Trump has already suggested registering Muslims for monitoring in the US.
I have no doubt that when the time comes people will willingly “chip-up” for some promised tax break or other monetary note, without ever having considered what it really means for them beyond a quick handout–all in the need for security in a religiously-talked-about insecure world.
It’s sad and frustrating that we’re so easily manipulated by fear–and this current election isn’t doing anything to instill any faith in me that that’ll change anytime soon either.
Anyway…I realize that most of this hasn’t really discussed Eisler’s book so much as it’s content, but that’s not to say the story itself isn’t good. God’s Eye is a terrifically written story that is ready-made for a Hollywood re-telling on the big silver screen, and I hope it gets one.
While I wasn’t overly fond of Evelyn’s character, I absolutely LOVED Manus. Eisler’s Manus, a deaf and competent hitman for the NSA, was nothing short of phenomenal. Blessed with a deep history that’s rich in experience, Manus became the focal point for me, and the person I cared about most. His history made for choices that were as compelling as they were conflicted. Eisler’s creation of Manus should serve as a textbook example on how to create a character your readers believe in.
(Barry, if you’re reading this, Manus needs his own story)
In a time where the future of technology is on the cusp of controlling our everyday lives, I can’t imagine a more entertaining (and perhaps a little scary) way to inform yourself about the risks that come with it. Much like how both SPOTLIGHT and THE BIG SHORT have brought to light the covering up of Catholic child-rape and the greedy, slimy underbelly of Wall Street, politicians and their corruption/destruction of the American housing market, Eisler exposes technology for what it can–and is–being used for.
Let me be clear, this is not an “alarmist” read, rooted with one man’s take on government and technology. In the end it’s still entertainment, but in a world where the main source for people’s information comes from celebrities, movies and TV shows, I find it fitting.
This is an informative and thrilling story that should not be missed.