Signal to Noise is a satirical hard science first contact story. The short of it is that a paranoid hacker genius comes up with a decryption algorithm that when applied to what was thought to be background noise from space actually finds communication traffic. Rather than share this revelation with the world, he sets up his own company and starts trading with aliens for advanced technology. He starts making lots of money. That is when the sharks (both human and alien) start coming out of the woodwork with hostile take over bids and blackmail threats. The moral of the story is that when aliens you meet on the intergalactic internet offer you some really nifty tech in exchange for some “cultural works” like Beatles recordings and Shakespeare, there is probably going to be a big hidden catch.
The style is free flowing. The paranoia is fun rather than oppressive. The protagonist is clearly *way* out of his depth and it is good to see a novel where the human doesn’t get to pull the wool over the eyes of the aliens by coming up with some clever leap of logic. Like I said in a recent Blunty thread – we better hope we don’t run into aliens that are smarter than us. As this novel shows, taking advantage of civilizations that aren’t as clever of yours is like taking candy from a baby.
I haven’t been able to source a copy of the sequel, A Signal Shattered, but would love to read it after enjoying Signal to Noise.