Review; Greg M. Sarwa’s Debut Novel, The Cattle

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Author: Greg M. Sarwa

ISBN: 0976620200

If you have any preconceptions about the recently enacted Real ID Act in the

USA, I heartily suggest you read Greg M. Sarwa’s debut novel, The Cattle.

Although the narrative is a work of fiction, it certainly reflects some of the

reality transpiring in the USA as a result of 9/11.

The USA in 2005 enacted the Real ID ACT that creates a “machine readable”

federally approved ID card. Supporters of this card argue that the ID card will

help combat terrorism and it will also follow the advice of some of the

recommendations of the 9/11 Commission investigation. What it boils down to is

that commencing in 2008, if you live or work in the USA you will need a

federally approved card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect

Social Security Payments, or take advantage of nearly every government service.

In other words, the Real ID Act would establish a national identity card. In

addition and what is alarming about these ID cards is the information that could

be stored on them. The Homeland Security Department has the power to decide what

information will be included. This may be more than just your name, birth date,

sex, ID number, a digital photograph, and address. Furthermore, it will employ a

common machine-readable technology. This could mean that it could end up being a

magnetic strip, or a sophisticated bar code, or even a radio frequency

identification chip. Would they go as far as implanting a microprocessor in your


The last possibility is the focus of the plot of Sarwa’s novel, where a day

before the National Identification System is to become a reality, all hell

breaks loose. A level 3 computer techie, Brian Warburton, in the employ of the

Homeland Security Department and working out of O’Hare Airport in Chicago

discovers that when he makes a final check of the complicated system that was to

be in operation the next day putting into effect the NIS, he discovers that he

was inexplicably already logged in. Moreover, the technology he witnesses on his

computer screen was only for those individuals with a level five clearance.

According to Brian, the information was supposed to be years away and it should

never have been permitted- it was in his words “against the law.”

Brian had to do something about this newfound information and he decides to copy

it on a computer disk in order that he may be able to warn everyone. However,

unfortunately, after he has completed his copying, Brian mysteriously dies, but

not before he manages to place the disk into the baggage of Anna Tabor, a Polish

visitor who just arrived in the USA.

Trevor Clifton, a high official with the Department of Homeland Security in

Chicago and likewise working out of O’Hare Airport is informed by one of his

subordinates that there was an unauthorized access to the higher level of the

computer system or as it was termed, Digital Gabriel. He just about goes

ballistic and immediately figures out that it could only be Brian Warburton who

was doing the copying.

As all of this is transpiring, newspaper reporter Jacob Reed is working on his

editorial for the next day’s edition pertaining to the National Security

Identification Act. He receives a phone call from police officer Ron Lacosta

requesting that they immediately meet because he has something extremely

important to tell him. When they get together Reed is given 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 mysterious auto

accident in the parking lot of the airport.

What is on the tape and the ensuing chase between Clifton’s men and Reed occupy

the remainder of the novel, wherein Sarwa weaves together a briskly paced

mystery thriller with the requisite elements of detecting and menace.

Sarwa’s writing is sprinkled with some vivid detail and his characters are

nicely drawn and distinctive. And while the novel sounds like the set-up for a

routine thriller, the surprising ending is far from predictable. The Cattle is

Sarawa’s first novel and he has effectively set the hook for future thrillers.

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Source by Norm Goldman

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