I read it about a decade or two ago, in English (I think it was not a translation, but the author's native language was English, but am not 100% sure). I also think author was male, and he might have been well-known (already then, or not then, but now?). It was probably not the newest book even then. If I had to guess, I'd guess it was probably written perhaps somewhere around the 1980s, but that is just a guess. I don't recall the book itself (it might even have been e-book or something. or not).

The story was set in the future, when the computers are far more advanced. There is one very small episode in which some group (or anonymous hackers?) uses AI and the stolen identity of some (teenage?) girl who has rich parents in order to send a spam e-mail (I don't think its called an e-mail in the story, but it is some kind of messaging system using something like the Internet), and the message thus manages to bypass anti-spam AIs which are usually quite successful at filtering spam, and is shown to many people (I think the term used was "shotgun spam" or something similar to it).

I think the girl was at some private party at some beach or somewhere, and the group managed to plant a boy in that group of otherwise rich-people-only kids and that is how he managed to steal her e-mail identity which made the spam run successful (I think the explanation was that AIs assign lower spam scores to messages coming from influential people). I don't think the girl was important in the story as a whole (i.e. not one of the main actors), but used more as an explanation for that spam (or as a minor character, or related to some of the more important characters).

More information guessing (it is quite possible I've conflated several different stories below: to be clear I'm looking for a story with that specific "AI spam" substory; everything else is just to help people identify it):

People might have implants in their head, and one of them might have been the main protagonist. Trying to hack into some mainframe? I think the author, when guessing what should be the specs of those future imagined supercomputers be, underrated some and overrated some other specs compared to today's reality (i.e. they might have been talking about those supercomputers having hundreds of megabytes of RAM and terahertz CPU clocks, or something in that vein).

My vague recollections failed to result in a successful search. Also, trying AIs failed to produce anything that I would remember connected to the story (oh the irony). I though it might be Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash or some of his other stories, or William Gibson's Neuromancer or something in that style, but I'm unable to confirm.

Does some human happen to remember that substory?

  • 1
    You read it in English, it was not a translation, "but" the author';s native language was English? Why "but", and how could you tell the author's native language was English?
    – user14111
    Commented May 26 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


More recent than the 80s, but it sounds like a part of Pandora's Star by Peter F Hamilton.

A 'shotgun' is the equivalent of a spam email sent to everyone with a Unisphere ebutler address code. Most are filtered, but some make it through, and the one referenced in the novel was successful in part because it had a real return address which meant the automatic filters were less effective, and also because the apparent sender was from a prominent enough family that people were more likely to read it:

In this case, the factor which allowed the shotgunned message to get round most e-butler filters was that it had a genuine author certificate. On the arrival of any message, that was the first thing an e-butler would query. This one had the certificate of April Gallar Halgarth, a twenty-year-old resident of Solidade, the private world owned by the Halgarth dynasty. Over ten billion e-butlers allowed to go forward into their hold file.

She was indeed on a beach holiday when it happened:

‘That’s not the point. Didn’t you access the file? This is her first year at college, her first vacation with a bunch of friends.


This sounds like the following from the 2005 novel Judas Unchained which is the second book in the Commonwealth Saga by Peter Hamilton.

"The message was loaded into the unisphere through a planetary cybersphere node in Hemeleum, a small inland farming town on Westwould. It remained in a onetime address file for five hours, long enough for whoever loaded it to have traveled clear across the Commonwealth. After five hours were up, the message’s sender segment activated. The program distributed the message to every e-butler address code in the unisphere, an annoying method of advertising called shotgunning. As a method of commercial promotion it had fallen into disuse centuries ago. Every modern e-butler program had filters that could bounce the spam right back to its sender, although as most shotgunners used a onetime address there was little point. The e-butlers also automatically notified the RIs controlling the unisphere routing protocols, who immediately wiped the offending message from every node. And under Intersolar law, finally passed in 2174, anyone shotgunning the unisphere was liable to a large irritant fine that could be applied to every message that was received by an e-butler, so the penalty was never less than a couple of billion dollars. Subsequently, shotgunning was used only by underground organizations or individuals who had ideologies, disreputable financial schemes, religious visions, or political revolution that they wanted the rest of the Commonwealth to know about. Given how quickly the unisphere RIs could identify shotgun spread patterns and block them, any software writer capable of composing a decent new shotgun sender could earn themselves a lucrative fee—cash, of course.In this case, the factor that allowed the shotgunned message to get around most e-butler filters was that it had a genuine author certificate. On the arrival of any message, that was the first thing an e-butler would query. This one had the certificate of April Gallar Halgarth, a twenty-year-old resident of Solidade, the private world owned by the Halgarth dynasty. Over ten billion e-butlers allowed it to go forward into their hold file. Most people upon receiving a message from a Halgarth opened it from sheer curiosity."

  • Thanks, that is indeed the storyline! I can only accept one answer however, and it was indeed first mentioned in Pandora's Star (book 1), so I've accepted Michael's answer, although both are great answers! Commented May 28 at 12:33

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