One of the rare finds I had recently was a copy of Danger.Com series number 2 entitled Firestorm. The tagline of the whole series lies on the front cover which got me hooked:
Surfing the Internet can be hazardous to your health.
I admit, I am a sucker for book sales. Not only for Book Sale, a brand of used book retail outlets here in the Philippines, but also other bookstore outlets. This is where I do find old copies and even discover unknown writers offline.
The story is about a high school student Randy Kincaid who enters a chat room and meets other characters by their aliases. It is the early years of the Internet, where people can be anyone they want even if they aren’t.
It all started when Randy had his laptop repaired by his classmate, Maya Bessamer. Maya is a nerdy half-Vietnamese born and raised in the US. She repairs computers as a sideline and she has a list of clients.
Upon returning the laptop, Randy finds an icon which was not there before. Curiosity led Randy to click it and observe. He meets people under the aliases PAT.riot73, 60.MAN, JamminGuy, and SwampFox. He doesn’t know these people, he doesn’t know where they live. He, too, pretends to be a 19 year-old mechanic in a race track (and he’s only 15!).
During the chat session, SwampFox writes a knock-knock joke that Randy doesn’t make sense. PAT.riot73 replies with a series of numbers which Randy thought was a phone number. What strikes Randy is how SwampFox wrote the joke:
Tie-dye tonight. Saris tomorrow!
So Randy concludes that he entered a chat room full of weird guys.
The next day, Randy reads on the news a bombing incident of a Thai immigration center in Knoxville. So Randy’s imagination runs wild and starts thinking of the connections. Did he uncover a terrorism plot here?
So he continues to observe the chat room to get further clues. Someone writes “salt-water tea” and Randy remembers that phrase before. He had read the book Johnny Tremain which mentioned that phrase.
He takes his copy of the book and begins decoding the phrases and phone numbers. But his copy is an old hardbound edition so he decides to try using a newer version. He discovers a pattern and realizes that those guys in the chat room are white supremacists targeting centers for immigrants.
So Randy tries to stop the plot by trying to report his discovery to the police and the FBI. But no one believes him.
He starts asking Maya on how he got the icon in the first place. And both of them go on uncovering clue after clue that puts their lives at risk.
The author wrote the book on the first person POV and it suits readers grade 7 and up. Fast-paced, entertaining, and reflective of the youth during the early years of the Internet. So I gave the book to my daughter for her to read it this long weekend. And for that, I’m going to give this 4 out of 5 stars.