Check; Greg M. Sarwa’s debut novel, The Cattle
Author: Greg M. Sarwa
If you have preconceived ideas about the Real ID Law recently enacted in the
United States, I heartily suggest that you read Greg M. Sarwa’s first novel, The Cattle.
Although the narrative is a work of fiction, it certainly reflects some of the
reality sweating in the US as a result of 9/11.
In 2005, the US enacted the Real ID ACT which creates a “machine readable”
federally approved identification card. Supporters of this card argue that the identification card
will help fight terrorism and will also follow the advice of some of the
recommendations of the 9/11 Commission investigation. What it boils down to is
that starting in 2008, if you live or work in the US, you will need a
federally approved card for air travel, opening a bank account, cashing out
Social Security payments, or take advantage of almost all government services.
In other words, the Real ID Law would establish a national identity card. In
Also, what is alarming about these identification cards is the information that could
be stored in them. The Department of Homeland Security has the power to decide what
information will be included. This can be more than just your name, date of birth,
gender, identity card number, digital photograph and address. In addition, you will use a
common machine-readable technology. This could mean that it could end up being a
magnetic stripe, or a sophisticated barcode, or even a radio frequency
identification chip. Would you go so far as to implant a microprocessor in your
The latter possibility is the focus of the plot of Sarwa’s novel, where one day
before the National Identification System is a reality, to hell
loose breaks. A level 3 computer technician, Brian Warburton, at the service of the
Department of Homeland Security and working at Chicago O’Hare Airport
finds that when he makes a final review of the complicated system he was going to
be up and running the next day by putting the NIS into effect, you discover that
inexplicably it was already connected. Also, the technology you see in your
computer screen was only for those with a level five clearance.
According to Brian, the information was supposed to be years away and he should
have never been allowed-it was in his words “against the law”.
Brian had to do something with this new information and decides to copy
on a computer disk so you can warn everyone. Nevertheless,
Unfortunately, having completed his copy, Brian mysteriously dies, but
not before he manages to place the disk in the luggage of Anna Tabor, a Polish
visitor who has just arrived in the United States.
Trevor Clifton, a senior official with the Department of Homeland Security in
Chicago and also working at O’Hare Airport is told by one of his
subordinates that there was unauthorized access to the top level of the
computer system or as it was called, Digital Gabriel. he almost goes
ballistic and immediately realizes that it could only be Brian Warburton who
I was doing the copy.
While all this is going on, journalist Jacob Reed is working on his
editorial for the next day’s edition on Homeland Security
Identification Law. He receives a phone call from police officer Ron Lacosta.
requesting that they meet immediately because he has something extremely
important to tell. When they get together, Reed receives a video cassette.
that came from one of the video cameras at the airport. Apparently Lacosta
received the tape from a colleague before the latter died in a mystery car
Airport parking accident.
What’s on the tape and the ensuing chase between Clifton’s men and Reed occupy
the rest of the novel, in which Sarwa weaves together a brisk rhythm
mystery thriller with the necessary elements of detection and threat.
Sarwa’s writing is peppered with vivid detail and her characters are
well drawn and distinctive. And although the novel sounds like the montage of a
Routine thriller, the surprise ending is far from predictable. cattle is
Sarawa’s first novel and has effectively set the bait for future thrillers.