Review: 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' sends up social media, Internet fanatics
If you find little to laugh about in the revelations that the National Security Agency peeps into the online lives of ordinary Americans to combat terrorism, settle in with David Shafer's of-the-moment new novel, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.”
Shafer's savvy, sardonic take on our social media- and Big Data-worshipping society is as current as your Twitter feed. Leila Majnoun is an Iranian-American working for the global nonprofit Helping Hands when she stumbles on American mercenaries guarding a remote site in a forest in Burma, propelling Leila and her loved ones into a dark world of Internet smears and power-mad multinational moguls.
Leila gets an assist from a disaffected American spy named Ned (Edward Snowden, without the inexplicable affinity for Russia?) who connects her with Dear Diary, an Anonymous-like group of rebels fighting The Committee, a secretive syndicate of media and drug companies plotting to control the world's information.
That puts her in touch with Leo, a bipolar child-care worker whose recent spiral into mania led him to post a rambling blog about a secretive group siphoning up all electronic transmissions. It strikes his family as paranoia but others as too close to the truth.
Leo's college buddy, Ned Devereux, wrote a booze-and-pill-fueled essay that becomes a self-help phenomenon titled “Bringing the Inside Out.” A lucrative book deal makes him a wealthy man and the personal guru for James Swain, an Internet billionaire plotting to gather and store all of the world's knowledge offshore in a project called New Alexandria.
Shafer's sendup of the self-help movement is snort-aloud funny. Mark Devereux writes “bless-ays” that urge people to wrap themselves in their Knowledge Blankets and make “consciousclusions” about themselves. Mark appears on the TV show of the Oprah-like Margo to tout his book and Swain's Node, hand-held computers designed to connect children to the Internet that are a key to Swain's knowledge takeover.
Biometrics. Big Data. Target knowing enough about your shopping preferences to predict when you are pregnant. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg uniting mobile technology and social-media giants to connect the world to the Internet. Nothing in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” sounds all that outlandish.
Just in time for your August beach trip, put “Whiskey” on your Amazon Wish List. As if they don't already know you want it.
Patty Rhule is a contributing writer for USA Today.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium schedules six-week closure
- Penguins rally late but lose to Panthers, 4-3, in shootout
- McKeesport graduate Brown has found his role for Boston College
- Ohio coach violates parole terms
- GOP to weigh major changes in budget office
- Human rights groups urge criminal investigation into CIA torture
- Dixon says starters playing too much for Pitt basketball team
- Pirates win bidding for Korean infielder
- Ebola in decline, CDC chief reports
- No. 18 West Virginia pounds Wofford, 77-44
- Steelers linebackers are getting to quarterback with more regularity