‘The Undernet’ by J. S. Frankel brings new definition to the age-old contest between good and evil, and between truth and deceit as a young man seeks answers that seem determined to remain hidden.
Frankel has crafted realistic, likeable and engaging central characters in Milt and his girlfriend, Robbie. They’re not perfect, and their mistakes have consequences, which makes them easier to empathise with and understand. Insights into Milt’s thoughts and gut reactions, and his feelings about Robbie, draw the reader into the often very confronting story of his quest for justice and truth.
Part of Frankel’s genius in casting this story is designing characters who live and work in the shadows, so that the reader has to keep questioning whether they are the good guys or the bad guys. There are so many layers of intrigue and concealment in this story that the reader is kept curious and wanting to know, much like Milt throughout this story, seeing the truth despite layers of concealment and misinformation. In this sense, the Undernet and the Dark Net take on the roles of additional impersonal characters that deliberately obscure reality in this story, just as they seem to in actual fact.
Some parts of The Undernet are definitely uncomfortable to read. In graphic contrast to the sincere and honest friendship Milt has with Robbie and with his best friend, Simon, Frankel gives his readers a solidly-written exposè of the dark side of human nature as one is likely to find it on the dark side of the internet – or anywhere. This is delivered with confronting realism and honesty. Through all of this, It was the strong identification I felt with with Milt’s “ordinary person” response to the ugly side of life that enabled me to keep reading and hoping for him to find the resolution he was so desperate to find.