The Fox by Frederick Forsyth – digested read

‘The boy beat the Koreans with a few lines of computer code that no one else in the world could have thought of’

Under the cover of darkness, a secret unit of the SAS, called the secret unit of the SAS and known only to two men in the entire United Kingdom, one of whom was Frederick Forsyth, raided a house in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. What they found there amazed even them.

Three months earlier experts at Fort Meade, home to America’s top secret National Security Agency in Maryland, America, had noticed that their top secret computer defences had been breached. The discovery sent shockwaves through the American high command, who had believed their networks were unhackable. After the finest computer minds in America were put on the problem, the breach was located to an IP address in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. It was April 2019.

The British prime minister, Marjory Graham, who bore a distinct resemblance to Theresa May – primarily because the author’s leaden prose style was unable to confer on her any semblance of personality – picked up the phone and called the baronet, Sir Adrian Weston, the former head of the British Intelligence Services. The phone rang at the London club of the baronet, Sir Adrian Weston, the former head of the British Intelligence Service and Sir Adrian Weston answered.

“We have a problem, Sir Adrian,” said the prime minister. “It turns out that an 18-year old boy from Luton with Asperger’s called Luke Jennings is the best computer hacker in the world. And the Americans want him deported because he’s hacked into their systems.”

“I have a plan,” said the baronet Sir Adrian. “I’m calling it Plan Troy. We’ll move the boy, codenamed The Fox after his cunning, to a safe house at Chandler’s Ford, so named because there is a ford nearby, and use him to hack into the systems of countries we don’t like.”

“Why is it called Plan Troy?” the prime minister asked.

“It’s after the Trojan horse,” the baronet Sir Adrian replied. Like Frederick Forsyth, he was never averse to unnecessary exposition to explain what he imagined was his brilliance. “In the Trojan war, the Greeks used the gift of a large horse as a ruse in which to get into the city.”

Hours later the baronet Sir Adrian was on a top-secret private flight to Washington DC in America to persuade the US president to agree to the plan.

“This is a big, big solving,” said the most powerful man in the western democratic world.

Three weeks later a brand new Russian warship, the most powerful warship of the Russian fleet, had run aground in the English Channel. Unbeknownst to the Russians, the GPS codes on board had been hacked. In Moscow, the small dictator known as The Vozhd summoned Yevgeni Krilov, the head of the Russian Intelligence Services.

“The codes on the Admiral Nakhimov have been hacked,” The Vozhd yelled. “This was supposed to be impossible.”

“Don’t worry,” Krilov replied. “One of my agents tells me that an 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s is responsible and is being held by the British at Chandler’s Ford.”

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth (Bantam Press, £20)
The Fox by Frederick Forsyth (Bantam Press, £20) Photograph: PR Company Handout

The Russian assassins never felt the bullets that killed them instantly. Sir Adrian smiled grimly. The Russians hadn’t known that their agent had in fact been turned and the British had been given warning of the assassination attempt. Sir Adrian turned his attention to Iran, one of the most brutal and unstable dictatorships on the planet that now had access to nuclear weapons. With three quick key strokes Luke Jennings disabled the entire Iranian nuclear programme.

“Kill the boy,” The Vozhd snarled.

Krilov sent off another hit squad whose mission ended in failure. Sir Adrian again smiled grimly. The Russians didn’t know that he had yet another double agent who had told him of the latest plot. Sir Adrian and Luke then set back both the North Korean missile programme and the Russian pipeline with a few lines of computer code that nobody else in the world was capable of doing. Within days, yet another Russian assassin with the very latest in sniper technology lay dead in a Scottish glen in Scotland, Britain. Victim to yet another of Sir Adrian’s double agents.

“This is one of the most tedious books I have ever read,” said Sir Adrian. “The same thing keeps happening over and over again and the writing is completely devoid of tension.” Fortunately, at that point the 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s fell over and bumped his head. When he regained consciousness, he was cured of Asperger’s and was no longer able to operate a computer.

“That’s very annoying,” said the British prime minister. Sir Adrian smiled grimly yet again. He had one last trick up his sleeve. Before the 18-year-old had recovered from Asperger’s, he had hacked the North Korean systems once more and now China was in control of the rogue state. The world was a safer place. Though not for readers.

Digested read digested: For Fox Sake.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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