A Non Spoilery Review of "git commit murder" and "Forever Falls" by Michael Warren Lucas
I met Michael at Kansas Linux Fest 2017 where he was a speaker. Turns out we've probably been walking past each other in the halls at Penguicon the last three years that I have attended. Michael is a BSD guy and one of us. As well as being an open source advocate, he works professionally as a systems admin and network engineer. I bought his texts "SSH Mastery" (because I've always needed help getting my head around reverse IP tunneling), "Networking for Systems Administrators", and "$ git commit murder", his latest novel. Because I was a good customer, Michael threw in "Forever Falls" for free.
"git commit murder" takes place at a BSD convention. The gathering in the novel is slightly less informal than the Linux conferences I've attended. The conference is targeted at the users, contributors, and managers of the fictional "SkyBSD". Our protagonist, Detroit native Dale Whitehead has come to Canada to deliver a talk on his mesh networking project. The conference is disrupted when attendees start to die in what appear to be unrelated accidents. Dale is unwilling to accept these deaths as accidents, and puts his analytical mind to discovering the killer. He also employees his hacking skills, having already created an admin account on the host university's server within minutes of checking in. This makes him understandably reluctant to discuss his theories with the authorities until he has positively identified a culprit.
The SkyBSD community is not without contention. A significant number of contributors want to move from Subversion to git for version control and just as many are vehemently opposed. Also, the recent release of candid photos meant to embarrass a contributor has many calling for a Code of Conduct and the banning of violators. Others think this is going too far. Dale has to contemplate whether either of these is reason for murder? Perhaps it is a struggle by an old guard who is not ready to surrender leadership to a younger generation?
At first, it was hard to get to like Michael's protagonist, Dale Whitehead. Dale suffers from an extreme form of Attention Deficit Disorder which requires medication and causes him to actively shun the company of other people. The same affliction that allows him to get "in the zone" when programming also makes being in crowds a fresh hell for Dale. He is in constant terror that some aberrant behavior on his part will reveal his condition to his companions and he finds it much easier to deal with other humans via e-mail or IRC. It's clear Michael Lucas has an understanding of the condition, either via research or contact with someone who suffers ADD.
At least one character in the story seemed to me to bear a passing resemblance to a familiar conference fixture in real life. Michael told me the sequel might be set at an open source/Sci Fi convention in a city near the great lakes. Time will tell if the Tuesday Afternoon Solaris Overview or a kilt wearing organizer will make an appearance.
"Forever Falls" is also a mystery, as well a SciFi story. Ella Forecourt is a recruit right out of college for the Montague Corporation. As a corporate security officer, she is assigned to investigate the death of a Montague research scientist at the Freefall installation. In the course of the novel, you learn that Montague has proprietary technology that allows them to "portal" into other universes or dimensions where the laws of physics are different from those of our universe. In Freefall, gravity runs parallel to the surface of the world. In other words, you don't fall down, you fall sideways, and with no ground to stop you, if you fall, you fall forever.
Montague has a research facility built into the "Cliff". With gravity travelling sideways, the surface of the planet appears as an endless cliff. "Above" the facility is a huge metal awning to deflect falling boulders. On top of the awning is where the security team discovers the body of Dr. Devin Grupper. The damage to the body suggests Dr. Grupper impacted with terminal velocity. Even in the lighter gravity of Freefall constant acceleration means terminal velocity is governed by air resistance. Montague does use airships for transport, but there are no records of how Grupper could have secured transportation and a pilot to wind up smashed on the awning without a ship going missing. Thus Security Second Ella Forecourt is assigned to the case. "Forever Falls" is but one in a series of Montague Portal novels by Michael Lucas. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.