William Hertling – Kill Process

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I’ve recently finished listening to the audio version of William Hertling‘s latest novel “Kill Process

I think it’s fair to say that I’m quite a fan of his novels and his writing. Kill Process is a bit of a departure from Hertling’s Singularity series in that it doesn’t deal with future events and science fiction technology but mostly takes place in the present day with a few exceptions for flashbacks to previous events in the protagonist’s life.

The novel has been described as a techno / crime / startup / spy thriller and that description is quite appropriate in my opinion.

The story revolves around Angelina ‘Angie’ Benenati, a data analyst at social network giant Tomo – a thinly veiled version of Facebook in Hertling’s literary universe (Avogadro Corp, the Google equivalent from the Singularity series makes a cameo appearance, too) – and how she both deals with previous dark periods in her life and finds the strength to create a startup bound to change the world.

Angie is not your likeable, run-of-the-mill one-dimensional hero but rather is a multi-facetted character with some (very) dark aspects to her to the extent that though on one hand she’s a hero on the other she’s also a villain with lots of skeletons in her closet. She’s a weird protagonist with many different facets: A hacker turned serial killer turned software developer turned entrepreneur.

Some of these aspects are deliberately left open at the end of the book, which might make for an interesting sequel where her previous actions might come back to haunt her.

Angie’s background story also shed’s light on the mid-1980s to early 1990s 16-bit home computer / BBS hacker sub-culture, which for someone like me who’s experienced this time first-hand is quite a nostalgia trip.

Kill Process is a fascinating read. I especially like the second half of the book that mostly deals with her startup idea of creating a decentralised, distributed social network as a competitor to Tomo, the somewhat sinister incumbent in that space in the world of Kill Process.

Interestingly, Tapestry (the name of Angie’s startup) could serve as something of an outline for an actual startup today. It’s a bit like Diaspora in that it’s decentralized by design. However, the concept goes way beyond that because it contains a few novel ideas (at least to my knowledge) that involve interesting perspectives on monetization and using existing building blocks such as Microformats in order to leverage existing infrastructure and representations of social connections.

Perhaps, it’s just wishful thinking by someone who’s privacy-minded but I think there certainly is the need for such a decentralised service today. However, a serious Facebook competitor has yet to emerge and as of now Diaspora doesn’t seem like that competitor. So, maybe an enterprising reader of Kill Process takes this idea as an actual blueprint (the startup stuff, not the nasty killing stuff, mind you …) for a new social networking product that changes the world for the better. This certainly would be an intriguing effect of the book and maybe wouldn’t even be entirely unintended by the author, who’s a proponent of decentralised systems.

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