Deep State (novel)

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Deep State is a 2011 thriller written by American science fiction author Walter Jon Williams.

This is the second book in the Dagmar Shaw series.


The prologue opens at a CIA listening post somewhere in Turkey. A military coup has just toppled the elected government of Turkey, and the military intelligence contractors at the post are uncertain as to whether the new government will allow them to continue their work or will have them arrested for espionage. A Turkish military convoy is spotted heading toward the post, and they are ordered to flee. After they have gotten away, they realize that a mixup (possibly deliberate) by other station personnel has caused them to leave a computer containing critical classified computer networking software at the listening post.

The main storyline commences a few months later with Dagmar and her company, Great Big Idea, running an ARG (augmented reality game) in Turkey. Dagmar owns and runs Great Big Idea now that her friend Charlie has been murdered (see This Is Not a Game). The game is to publicise a new James Bond movie. The military coup has left the new movie in a bad position, marketing-wise, as the studio fears that moviegoers will avoid their movie due to the recent coup. As a result, they have hired Dagmar to create a game to create favorable publicity—thanks to a regular player of her games, known by his online gaming handle of Chatsworth, who is working for the movie studio.

The game has gone well, but the military government decides to try to steer the publicity to give positive press to the new dictator, and they order Dagmar and her employees to attend a state dinner to "thank" them for the tourism that the game has brought. Dagmar, still suffering emotional problems from her experiences in the riots in Indonesia (covered in This Is Not a Game), is loath to do anything to help the military dictatorship, and makes a faux pas during her talk with the new dictator.

The new military government then decides to revoke Dagmar's permits to use a public park to hold the last part of the game. However, anticipating such a move, she and her minions change the final day of game activities. While organizing the changes, she and her crew are caught in rioting, but escape unharmed. Despite all of these obstacles, the game is finished successfully. The studio and the game-players are all overjoyed, and she and her workers return to the United States.

After this success, Chatsworth asks Dagmar if she would be interested in another contract: to overthrow, in real life, the new military dictatorship. Chatsworth reveals himself to be a spy who was using the Bond-themed game as cover for emplacing computer networking infrastructure in Turkey for later use in his efforts to overthrow the new government. Dagmar is persuaded to try to help, and she and her crew fly to Cyprus to help organize the revolution. They stay at a British military airfield on the island, living on the base in staff apartments.

The group that Chatsworth organizes includes two CIA trainees, who are to learn from Dagmar how to run ARGs, and two military intelligence contractors who specialize in computer networking, as well as three Turks who will be sent into Turkey to interface with local pro-democracy groups. Dagmar begins to fall in love with one of these Turks, named Ismet.

Dagmar designs events to bring together flash mobs of Turks in organized protests against the government, while the contractors use off-the-shelf hardware to create camera drones and ad hoc networks so that scenes from the protests can be uploaded to the web. After several successful events, each led by one of the Turks, one protest is attacked as it is forming by the Grey Wolves, a Turkish military-police unit. Ismet is leading this particular protest, and he falls out of contact for several hours while he evades and escapes the trap.

Meanwhile, back in Cyprus, Dagmar is nearly murdered, and her friend and coworker is murdered, in the apartment that they share on-base, by assassins sent by the dictatorship. It becomes clear that someone has betrayed the group. Chatsworth suspects that the leak has come from within his group, and in particular is suspicious that Ismet might have been captured and 'turned' (forced to become a double agent) at the protest that was attacked. Dagmar refuses to believe this, since she is convinced that Ismet is in love with her, just as she is with him.

Chatsworth organizes polygraph tests for every member of the group. Ismet passes, but one of the trainees, one of Dagmar's employees, and the two military intelligence contractors all fail in different ways. Dagmar's employee, Helmut, has been leaving the base regularly to go party in one of the nearby towns, along with one of the military-intelligence contractors, Magnus. Dagmar talks with Helmut and discovers that he lied during his testing session because he was afraid he would lose his job due to drug abuse—he found a great club at which to smoke hashish, and has been going there regularly. Chatsworth decides that the CIA trainee's unusual testing responses were because of his CIA training at beating polygraphs.

Dagmar begins suffering more and more intense hallucinations as a result of severe PTSD stemming from her time in Indonesia.

Then, while another demonstration is going on, the entire island of Cyprus as well as all of Turkey is hit by a massive internet outage. Chatsworth reveals to Dagmar that the operation is, in part, an effort to get back a computer virus that the CIA had created to disrupt the internet, which was lost by the military intelligence contractors at the beginning of the novel. These are the same contractors who are now part of the group.

Dagmar realizes that the contractors' behavioral problems are signs that they had been captured and 'turned', and are likely to be the ones who betrayed the group to the dictatorship, resulting in her friend's assassination. Chatsworth orders their arrest, and they confess.

More demonstrations are organized, and spontaneous demonstrations unrelated to Dagmar's activities are starting to break out. As a result of the Grey Wolves' repeated attacks on demonstrations, and the many deaths that have resulted, the Turkish population is coming together against the dictatorship.

Then, New York City is hit by the internet virus. Market trading is disrupted, and billions of dollars in financial transactions are lost during the outage. The CIA pulls the plug on the revolution, negotiating with the Turkish dictatorship to stop the use of the internet virus in exchange for a cessation of their attempts to overthrow the dictatorship.

Dagmar, unwilling to fail after so many deaths, finds the hacker who helped the Turkish government understand and use the virus. She and Ismet go to capture him and get him to use a backdoor into the virus to stop the virus attacks. As she is doing this, the military dictatorship is overthrown by the Turkish people.

Puzzle Phrases[edit]

Various scenes within the novel are headed with puzzle phrases. The first of the novel, for example, appears at the beginning of chapter two and reads, "Primary Turns Solid Dangerously." The following scene illustrates that the novel's main character, Dagmar Shaw, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from her time in Jakarta. Therefore, the puzzle phrase can be read by taking the first letter of each word and putting them together: PTSD.

The other puzzle phrases appear in this order: Saint Paul Railed Against Breastwork Here (pg. 19), Type of Whiskey Minus Two (pg. 21), Learned Chatter Scrambles Peen (pg. 28), Culinary Institute of America, Initially (pg. 30), Duplicity in a Coed Pet-In (pg. 345), Disorder in a U.S. Benz Kit (pg 349), Deranged Scot Sum Amounts to Local Habits (pg. 355), Spear Point Flies to Hooters (pg. 371), and Lamprey's Appendage Sucks on Ale (pg. 387).

There are ten puzzle phrases in total. Five appear in the beginning of the novel, and five appear at the end. There are no puzzle phrases in Act II of the novel.