What do you think about the characters' naivete re technology and basic science?

Use this forum to discuss the June 2019 Book of the month, "Cynthia and Dan: Cyber War" by Dorothy May Mercer.
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esp1975
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Re: What do you think about the characters' naivete re technology and basic science?

Post by esp1975 »

Nisha Ward wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 19:11

I wouldn't even say that you need a PhD per se. A lot of the stuff, like finding IP addresses, were freely available on the internet when this was written. There have been tumblr extensions for this for years, I think.
Nisha - I think I didn't even make it that far in the book. I made it through to about the point when computer geek 1's friend joins him in the "secret room" for the first time, and all three , geek 1, geek 2, brother, basically pretend they're teenage boys playing Fortnite.

There was just so much that didn't click for me. I just found Cynthia such an unbelievable character, that I just had to stop reading and move on to something I was actually going to enjoy.

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Post by SunVixen »

esp1975 wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 18:46
I couldn't finish the book and this was one of the main reasons. It read more like a teenage boy's fantasy than anything else. A hot woman who is head of security for a Senator and only employs other hot women? Cyber war with all sorts of new tech? Super cool!
Except the only part of this book that seemed to have any research was the information on Plan B and RU486. Nothing else was well researched.
I did my best to overlook some of the tech stuff because I work with people who have PhDs in Computer Science. I get not everyone has the same level of exposure to this as I do, and it could be tricky to research.
But seriously, the piece that truly broke me was in the background check of our young computer geek. He was working in DC on a summer internship, having just graduated with his BS, and he is looking to go to graduate school. It is the summer before he would start said grad school, and he is still waiting to hear on whether or not he was accepted? This would never happen. You apply for your final year of undergrad (if you know you want to go). You know if you were accepted in January. I guess he could have been wait-listed (though that wouldn't make sense with how awesome he was supposed to be), but April 15 is essentially decision day for all graduate programs in the United States. And so if you are wait listed, that is the latest you would get notified. And this information is available via an easy google search, or placing one call to any university in the country.
The lack of willingness to do even this basic level of research just made it impossible for me to finish the book.
I finished it, but some plotholes seemed strange to me.
Nisha Ward wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 18:15
SunVixen wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 14:08
Of course, she had to learn about children and contraception well before 25 years. If it was an author's trick, it obviously failed.
Also, I do not even know how the author wrote about this IP thing. This is not a bad trick, this is a clumsy mistake.
I mean, the easiest way to do it would be to have Cynthia worry about not using a condom, discover she's pregnant and have a doctor explain it since they have to do that as part of the job.

As to the IP thing, I feel like that's one of the things that could have been referenced without having to go into an explanation about it. Like, just have one of the guys remark on it as an offhand comment on their work or something. That way you avoid having to look it up while still seeming like your characters have the right frame of reference.
Of course. It would be more logical.
Nisha Ward wrote:
27 Jun 2019, 02:47
Firefawkes wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 22:29
There's so many holes in the logic in this book, but I have known people who are completely oblivious to the facts of life (and it was a very scary realization), so maybe that part is not too far-fetched?

Perhaps, but this is a woman who's said to be intelligent and competent enough to be a senator's head of security at twenty-five. Protecting her body should be second-nature.
Also, her job was supposed to make her very suspicious of strangers.

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Post by Nisha Ward »

esp1975 wrote:
27 Jun 2019, 09:22
Nisha Ward wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 19:11
A wouldn't even say that you need a PhD per se. A lot of the stuff, like finding IP addresses, were freely available on the internet when this was written. There have been tumblr extensions for this for years, I think.
Nisha - I think I didn't even make it that far in the book. I made it through to about the point when computer geek 1's friend joins him in the "secret room" for the first time, and all three , geek 1, geek 2, brother, basically pretend they're teenage boys playing Fortnite.

There was just so much that didn't click for me. I just found Cynthia such an unbelievable character, that I just had to stop reading and move on to something I was actually going to enjoy.
Oh I totally agree with you there and good choice. No need to put yourself through a read that doesn't click if you don't have to.
"...while a book has got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the reader it's got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the writer as well." - Terry Pratchett on The Last Continent and his writing.

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Post by Nisha Ward »

SunVixen wrote:
27 Jun 2019, 12:10
esp1975 wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 18:46
I couldn't finish the book and this was one of the main reasons. It read more like a teenage boy's fantasy than anything else. A hot woman who is head of security for a Senator and only employs other hot women? Cyber war with all sorts of new tech? Super cool!
Except the only part of this book that seemed to have any research was the information on Plan B and RU486. Nothing else was well researched.
I did my best to overlook some of the tech stuff because I work with people who have PhDs in Computer Science. I get not everyone has the same level of exposure to this as I do, and it could be tricky to research.
But seriously, the piece that truly broke me was in the background check of our young computer geek. He was working in DC on a summer internship, having just graduated with his BS, and he is looking to go to graduate school. It is the summer before he would start said grad school, and he is still waiting to hear on whether or not he was accepted? This would never happen. You apply for your final year of undergrad (if you know you want to go). You know if you were accepted in January. I guess he could have been wait-listed (though that wouldn't make sense with how awesome he was supposed to be), but April 15 is essentially decision day for all graduate programs in the United States. And so if you are wait listed, that is the latest you would get notified. And this information is available via an easy google search, or placing one call to any university in the country.
The lack of willingness to do even this basic level of research just made it impossible for me to finish the book.
I finished it, but some plotholes seemed strange to me.
Nisha Ward wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 18:15
SunVixen wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 14:08
Of course, she had to learn about children and contraception well before 25 years. If it was an author's trick, it obviously failed.
Also, I do not even know how the author wrote about this IP thing. This is not a bad trick, this is a clumsy mistake.
I mean, the easiest way to do it would be to have Cynthia worry about not using a condom, discover she's pregnant and have a doctor explain it since they have to do that as part of the job.

As to the IP thing, I feel like that's one of the things that could have been referenced without having to go into an explanation about it. Like, just have one of the guys remark on it as an offhand comment on their work or something. That way you avoid having to look it up while still seeming like your characters have the right frame of reference.
Of course. It would be more logical.
Nisha Ward wrote:
27 Jun 2019, 02:47
Firefawkes wrote:
26 Jun 2019, 22:29
There's so many holes in the logic in this book, but I have known people who are completely oblivious to the facts of life (and it was a very scary realization), so maybe that part is not too far-fetched?

Perhaps, but this is a woman who's said to be intelligent and competent enough to be a senator's head of security at twenty-five. Protecting her body should be second-nature.
Also, her job was supposed to make her very suspicious of strangers.
Yes! Her trusting Sky right from the start was definitely the wrong choice to make in writing such a character.
"...while a book has got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the reader it's got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the writer as well." - Terry Pratchett on The Last Continent and his writing.

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Post by AntonelaMaria »

CyndiA1 wrote:
25 Jun 2019, 13:23
It's critical to know your characters. I've encouraged students to cut out magazine photos reflecting exactly what fictional characters look like and to keep notebooks with backstory even if not included in a story/book. I can't imagine putting a book out for readers where a major character appears to function on a middle school level in reference to general life skills/knowledge while being quite brilliant in other topic area. I do find that a real concern.
Do you feel like this wasn't a professionally edited book? With all the issues that are quite important for character development and overall plotline?!
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Post by kmwarren20 »

I think the naivety was really out of place in a modern setting. Honestly, it makes little sense to me.

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Post by Nisha Ward »

AntonelaMaria wrote:
28 Jun 2019, 16:23
CyndiA1 wrote:
25 Jun 2019, 13:23
It's critical to know your characters. I've encouraged students to cut out magazine photos reflecting exactly what fictional characters look like and to keep notebooks with backstory even if not included in a story/book. I can't imagine putting a book out for readers where a major character appears to function on a middle school level in reference to general life skills/knowledge while being quite brilliant in other topic area. I do find that a real concern.
Do you feel like this wasn't a professionally edited book? With all the issues that are quite important for character development and overall plotline?!
I admit to having that concern as well.
"...while a book has got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the reader it's got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the writer as well." - Terry Pratchett on The Last Continent and his writing.

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Post by J_odoyo »

Nisha Ward wrote:
21 Jun 2019, 08:24
Ferdinand_otieno wrote:
21 Jun 2019, 07:33
Nisha Ward wrote:
13 Jun 2019, 16:32
In reading this book, I've found some very weird bits that don't make sense in a modern context. When Sky first meets Cynthia, he assumes that she doesn't know what a smart phone is and then Cynthia doesn't seem to understand basic things like sex leading to pregnancy and what Plan B is and how abortificents work. Furthermore, I've also found this with Tim, who's supposed to be this geeky, nerdy guy into computer science and technology not knowing how to hide IP addresses or how computers can connect wirelessly.

In the context of the book, neither of these things make any sense. What do you guys think? Were there other examples of this?
I think the author tried to push the story along without paying attention to the character profiles.
Pretty much and it was the wrong move because in doing so it just highlighted all of the book's flaws.
I agree with you, having computer knowledge and yet no knowledge of how to use smartphone in modern set up is practically impossible. I think the author made contradictory impression on the readers. In normality of things, someone of Cynthia's age cannot lack knowledge concerning dangers of unprotected sex. I therefore concur with you on the idea that the author overlooked the profiles of these characters.
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Post by LSequeira »

I'm glad I'm not the only one picking up on this. What this really says to me is that either the author is an older individual that's just as unfamiliar with technology and science as her characters, or that they didn't bother to do any basic research for the work. Honestly, I strongly suspect that it's a product of a substantial age gap between the author and the characters that she was writing.

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Post by Nisha Ward »

LSequeira wrote:
07 Jul 2019, 20:40
I'm glad I'm not the only one picking up on this. What this really says to me is that either the author is an older individual that's just as unfamiliar with technology and science as her characters, or that they didn't bother to do any basic research for the work. Honestly, I strongly suspect that it's a product of a substantial age gap between the author and the characters that she was writing.
I agree. I think it has to do with the age of the author compared to her characters and the disconnect there.
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Post by OliviaLouise »

I actually read this to be poor character development on the author's part. This is not to say that all the characters were poorly developed, of course. There were several aspects of the characters that I thought were brilliant... but what you are describing is a hole. This hole is the information that helps the reader understand why these characters do not understand these things because it does not make sense in a modern context without an explanation.
Side note: When I first read the smartphone thing, I had one thought: mansplaining! :mrgreen:

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Post by Fuzaila »

I think Cynthia being clueless about pregnancy and childbirth was meant to be part of her character development. But an apparent 'tech expert' being clueless about basic aspects of security is funny.

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Post by Jlbaird85 »

I agree with the comments about Cynthia’s cluelessness not making sense. It was so far fetched that it didn’t even qualify as absent mindedness. There was just no explanation that I could come up to describe how clueless she was. It was really painful to read.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts

Shakespeare-As You Like It Act II, Scene VII

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Post by Storm+ »

Personally, I found it really odd that all of the people (and/or authorities) in this book seemed to have no idea what they were doing. For example, Cynthia and her brother have no clue how to do any of the things they ask the "Geeks" in the War Room to do, nor does the Major. On top of this, the question of how one man working in Computer Science and his buddy (who for some unknown reason was chosen for this project on the first place) manage to accomplish tasks that are seemingly impossible for multiple government agencies is never actually answered.

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Post by Nisha Ward »

Storm+ wrote:
14 Jul 2019, 01:52
Personally, I found it really odd that all of the people (and/or authorities) in this book seemed to have no idea what they were doing. For example, Cynthia and her brother have no clue how to do any of the things they ask the "Geeks" in the War Room to do, nor does the Major. On top of this, the question of how one man working in Computer Science and his buddy (who for some unknown reason was chosen for this project on the first place) manage to accomplish tasks that are seemingly impossible for multiple government agencies is never actually answered.
Not just that but the Major is the Geeks' teacher so why doesn't he know what they're doing in the War Room? Like, that just seems to make him seem supremely unqualified for such a position. Moreover, a lot of what's happening here is just basic hacking but made to seem so high tech.
"...while a book has got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the reader it's got to be worthwhile from the point of view of the writer as well." - Terry Pratchett on The Last Continent and his writing.

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