Geek Mafia 3: Black Hat—A Heist Novel for Hackers

Geek Mafia: Black Hat Blues

By Cory Doctorow
June 2, 2009

Rick Dakan’s third novel in his Geek Mafia, Black Hat Blues, is every bit as good as the two previous, rollicking volumes — and shows the signs of a writer who’s flexing new literary muscles with every book, getting better and better as he goes along.

The Geek Mafia premise is simple: a group of hackers have reinvented themselves as a crew of big-con grifters who use technology to exact elaborate revenge from the bastards who screw them — and the world — over. Oh, they pull straight-ahead cons, too; they’re not philanthropists or anything. But they’ve got a (developing) ethic about who is and isn’t fair game, and a lot of the tension in the books springs over disputes over this classing “honor among thieves” conundrum.

Black Hat Blues picks up where Mile Zero (the second volume) ended; the crew is in Key West, politicized and energized, and ready to kick ass. They decide to go after some very big game this time, a slimy DC beltway insider who richly deserves it — but first they have to recruit some new talent from various hacker cons around America (these scenes are just fabulous, accurately portraying some of the weirdest events you’ll ever attend). And things go well — until they don’t, and now the crew is in way over its head and the danger is dialled up to 11.

Clever, engaging, sexy, geeky — Rick Dakan’s independently published books are fantastic material, real heist/caper novels for the Happy Mutant set; as with the previous two volumes, the design is great (Rick’s got a friend who’s a great a graphic designer), but the book has an unfortunately high typo and copyedit-problem count, an occupational hazard of the self-published.

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