© 2017 Joseph Finder
Picture this. You’re a senatorial aide whose boss is technologically illiterate enough to be dangerous. The senator’s MacBook, containing information that was never supposed to leave the Senate offices, has been inadvertently switched with someone else’s at an airport security checkpoint. The guy who mistook the senator’s MacBook for his knows something is screwy, because when you tried to get it back you pretended to be someone else. Your clumsy attempt to hire an bagman from the Dark Net backfired when the target got nervous and ran over your employee. Now you’re thinking this hapless owner of a failing coffee company is some sort of criminal mastermind, and he thinks he’s being targeted by some cold-blooded Agent Smith type at Fort Meade. In reality, you’re both goofballs not taken seriously by their wives and bosses, who have manged to turn an innocent mistake into a light action thriller which is accidentally funny, despite pitting secret government goons on opposing sides trying to kill a nice buffoon of a main character.
The Switch is…extremely light reading — basically, what might happen if James Patterson tried a novel with cybersecurity and surveillance themes. I was often entertained by it, sometimes in ways not intended by the author. I would probably try the author again to see if the quality varies, but only for the mental equivalent of a lazy morning on the couch. I like the general premise of this novel, but the execution was often bizaare: one journalist character claims to have gotten Hillary Clinton’s oatmeal cookie recipe from their whistleblower dropbox, and an NSA character refers to a flashdrive as something like a thingamabob. He was wearing cowboy boots and flannel at the time. I only got through that scene by pretending the NSA guy was playing some bizarre mind game with the main character that required him to pretend to be an insidious country bumpkin who can also delete all of your from Google, Facebook, and even your favorite craft beer website. (I’d wager a bottle of IPA that Finder has watched The Net at some point and thought it was worth borrowing liberally from.)
In short, The Switch is kind of like the Rush Hour movies — kind of preposterous, but entertaining.