Reviews

One of the best books I have ever read, October 18, 2011

Without a doubt, Dormant Curse is one of the best books I have ever read. Once I started reading it, I did not want to put it down. The characters are fascinating and I enjoyed the way the story line pulled parallel events together. It reminded me of the first Clancy novel I read and wanted more when it was over.

D. Mitchell, Austin, Texas

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Great Book! October 12, 2011

The story pulled me in from the beginning and left me wanting more at the end. Ellis combines current politics and technology with a story that is thought provoking and makes you wonder, “What if?”

Beth Yoder, Texas

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Dormant Curse Is Thought Provoking, September 7, 2011

“Dormant Curse is a must read for all conscientious souls. Ellis does a brilliant job capturing our attention and opening our minds to tragic possibilities that could erupt in our world of high-technology. We are able to see, feel, and hear the action that’s played out in this gripping story that has us turning page after page. While it is highly entertaining, reading Dormant Curse is an eye-opening experience.”

Martha Iglehart, Spirit 105.9 FM, Austin, Texas

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More Than Just a Great Fiction Story! September 2, 2011

“I am a 25+ year veteran engineer and product manager in the semiconductor industry and can tell you without a doubt that the technology revealed in this awesome “fictional story” is possible today! That’s the scary thing. John Ellis’ real life experiences and global geo- and politico-economic insights lend significant credence to the book’s underlying cyber threat.

 

With that in mind, this book for me was not only a hugely intruiging and entertaining novel but one that is timely and needed to awaken our nation’s sensitivity to the future risk of cyberterrorism. Cudos and many thanks, John, for the great book and driving awareness in this area of national security.”

Tom Baum, 25+ year veteran in the semiconductor industry

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Wild Ride – Great Read, July 25, 2011

“Intense drama, political upheavals and even romance await the players in the deadly path of Dormant Curse.

 

Heros are made. Hearts are changed and personalities switch from good to evil as the entanglements of passion and intrigue become fatally intertwined.

 

Dormant Curse is a fast-action, fast-read, tumultuously moving the reader from plot point to suprising twist at an exciting pace while still alllowing the characters to fully devolp and show their intricate layers.

 

Read Dormant Curse for the mystery and excitement, and expect to come away with questions that neeed answers; from our own govement, from world leaders and from within our own souls. Dormant Curse is a wild ride, and one you cannot afford to miss.”

M. Bowles, Texas

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Great plot based on real-world security gap, August 23, 2011

“When John Ellis discovered a security flaw and got a less-than-prompt response to his warnings, he decided to write a novel about it. The result is Ellis’s first thriller, Dormant Curse, with a great plot based on the unlikely subject of 3D TSV packaging.

 

Ellis, a mechanical engineer by training, spent a dozen years at Sandia National Laboratory working on national security programs, and another decade as a SEMI staffer managing standards programs. Several years ago he realized that the 3D stacks of chips connected by through silicon vias (TSVs) represented a security risk. Packaging houses, many of which are based in China, could surreptitiously add a Trojan chip that could wreak havoc in cellphones, tablets, or military systems.

 

That scenario is plausible enough in the real world. In the hands of a creative story teller, it serves as the platform for a page-turning cyberterrorism novel that starts with a secretive Chinese “Zhongua Nine” cult leader, who is seeking revenge against Japan for the murder of his family during World War II. The cult’s plot brings in Chinese president Li Zhuang as a co-conspirator out to grab oil resources, drags Iran along as the not-very-bright victim, and forces the U.S. president to make some on-the-spot military decisions.

 

Any good system requires a mix of hardware and software, and Dormant Curse is no exception. The hardware component is the 3D stack of ICs used by smartphones and tablets, with a Trojan chip slipped in at a Chinese assembly and test facility. The software component is equally imaginative: secret Unicode signals transmitted to the Trojan chips in ways that readers may find equally believable. It is a brilliant combination, worthy of the smart phone/social networking generation.

 

And in this era of real-world China-based hackers allegedly attacking U.S. government and corporate Web sites, China’s involvement in a cyber terrorism plot takes on more plausibility than it might have five years ago.

 

The story enfolds with two National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) agents unraveling the cause of a multi-pronged attack on commercial airplanes downed by the terrorists. They ferret out the bad guys gradually: “We noticed a lot of fried smartphones and iPads onboard, too. I’m not talking just heated and melted, either; these devices were on fire and started fires.” “That’s consistent with an EMP, but that oxygen bottle is not…and neither is the fact that the plane’s electronics were intact enough to land,” Greg said, thinking out loud. “An EMP would have taken them out as well.”

There are plenty of twists, ranging from Iran playing the role of China’s fall guy to the U.S. president giving up the fight in a whimpish hour of helplessness.

 

Here’s the Iranian “Great Leader” as he challenges our fictional president: “Likely you have surmised from your spies and satellites that an incursion of protective forces into Iraq is imminent. We insist you do not interfere in our religious or political affairs. Likewise, we insist that you do not interfere in China’s current activities in the East China Sea. Failure to stand down your troops in either location will result in another attack, similar to the one you experienced in Atlanta this very morning…”

 

Along with several hours of beach-reading entertainment, Dormant Curse provided some moments for high-tech thought. I kept thinking, “Just how far-fetched is this story, anyway?”

 

I sent an e-mail to Ellis, who responded by sending links to real-world episodes of compromised chips in military systems which have been mysteriously altered to allow “back door” entry by enemies.

 

And Ellis wrote that the U.S. intelligence community’s version of DARPA (iARPA) has a program underway to make our chips more secure, though it does not address the issue of 3D chips just yet. In fact, Ellis’ frustration at the slow pace of government action provided him with motivation to write Dormant Curse.

 

A great plot supporting a fast-paced action story seems destined to make it to Hollywood and the silver screen someday. I’ll wager Hollywood gets there before our Department of Homeland Security program does.

 

Whatever you think of the chances that TSV-connected chips could provide major security risks, Dormant Curse stands on familiar ground: “How do the good guys stop the bad guys before our world comes crashing down on us?” Where is Agent 007 when we need him?

David P. Lammers, Semiconductor Manufacturing and Design

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Dormant Curse, August 20, 2011

“A great read. It contains so many contemopary events, and the nefarious plot is all too believeable. I hope that this becomes required reading at the US State Department!”

Jim Greed, California

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Highly Recommended, August 18, 2011

“What a great book, I was glued to my seat-couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! It’s scary to think terrorists could invade our country and cause such terror and destruction with a common household item. I am excited to have discovered a new author and I am anxiously awaiting a sequel…”

“BJM74″

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Will I EVER Fly AGAIN?, August 17, 2011

“I downloaded this thriller onto my new Kindle just before taking off on vacation with my family. Since I am a graduate student, I was excited to read something “out of my field” (counseling psychology). I was a mostly right…but this book has a psychological thriller feel to it as well. The story grabbed me at the beginning and kept me going until the end. I read it in airports, airplanes, our hotel and I admit, even in the theme park when I was supposed to be watching the dolphin show!

 

The characters are engaging, intense, well written, and flawed, even the villains are written with empathy. The heroes are smart and intuitive without being written over the top like comic-book characters. and they have their own flaws. They each play their own part, without any player racing in as the “Tom Cruise” superhero, who singlehandedly saves the day.

 

Although the book contains details about history, technology, war, politics and of course, psychology, the details helped move the plot along, and never weighs it down. (OK, I actually learned a little too!) I found the book almost impossible to put down, it was a good thing I was on vacation…or I would have gotten in trouble. The author seemed to leave room for a sequel, so here’s hoping he graces us with one!

 

I have to tell you, I did NOT have fun flying home AFTER reading this book, but you’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean…because you are NOT getting a spoiler from me!”

Deborah Clarke, Nebraska

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Dormant Curse, July 25, 2011

“If my computer and your phone blew up right now, that would be a big problem. The story of Dormant Curse became so real that I wanted to pay more attention to global politics. This book has helped me understand why I need to know what’s happening not only through our government, but in the lives of people on the other side of the world.

 

Read it. It’s a book about cyber-terrorism, where bad guys are using iPods, iPhones, tablets, etc. against Americans. You should read it because its a good action thriller – its one of those stay up all night reads.”

Kat and Wyatt Kalmbach, Texas

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Highly recommended – a must read for anyone who lives in modern civilization over the age of 13, August 3, 2011

“Please write a series! This thrill ride that plays out like a movie. It’s the scary truth.”

“American Entertainer”

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