The book’s tragic conclusion is softened by his claim that the UK is better prepared than most countries to deal with the aftermath of network failure. This may be true. But, while readers may feel frustrated that the book does not provide a greater insight into the current crisis facing the world, a more reasonable criticism might be that it fails to address another key point: that decisions taken by the governments in which Letwin served may have put critical networks at greater risk of the kinds of incidents that Apocalypse How? describes.
Honestly, what the hell did I just read? Ostensibly, this book is a warning about network failure, about what might happen a couple of decades hence if Britain’s internet goes down. By then, with vital internetty components embedded into everything from our telephones to our fridges to the National Grid, Letwin’s big point is that such a collapse would be very bad. And it is a point that the former MP for West Dorset and author of page-turners such as Hearts and Minds: The Battle for the Conservative Party from Thatcher to the Present (2017) has decided to make, in part, in the form of a novel. Set in 2037. Yes.
There have been many dystopian portrayals of what might happen if machines are used to control our lives. But this entertaining and insightful book by Sir Oliver Letwin, the former Tory MP whose long Commons career ended last year, focuses instead on the calamitous consequences we could face in the future if the technology we depend on goes wrong. The picture he paints is bleak as he uses chapters that alternate between a fictional depiction of chaotic meltdown in the year 2037 and analysis of the real-life causes to show why such disaster could occur.