Zer0es (Zer0es #1) – Chuck Wendig

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Summary:

Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as “the Lodge,” where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves “the Zeroes.”

But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist’s head spin. And soon they’re not just trying to serve their time, they’re also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they’ll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of “progress.”

Review:

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, or hell, if you’ve even looked at the title of blog, you’ll know that I more or less only swim in the fantasy end of the SF/F pool. For whatever reason, science fiction never grabbed me the same way that fantasy did. That being said, when the publisher reached out to me about whether or not I wanted to read this, something about it caught my eye and so I said sure. Fast-forward a few days and I was wrapping up the immensely disappointing Magonia and looking for something to read. I decided to read the first chapter. Then the second, and the third.

I was hooked.

I stayed hooked for maybe the first sixty percent or so, and then it started to lose me. You see, the first half is pretty much a cyber-thriller. Five people (three men, two women) start hacking at the “request” of Uncle Sam and of course, not is all as it seems. I rather enjoyed the portion set at the Lodge because this is when we get to know everyone. There’s a nice mix of personalities here, from Chance the likable guy whose backstory is ripped from the headlines in a Law & Order approved manner to Regan, an awful woman who does awful things for the lulz. It’s nice to have the antagonistic female character be awful because she can, and not because she’s a woman scorned. I like how they show the team slowly coming together as they begin to relax and trust one another and slowly start to unravel the mystery of Typhon.

Too bad I don’t like Typhon. Or rather, I don’t like Typhon in this setting.

The second half of this book is pure sci-fi. While the premise of what Typhon is is rather creepy (let’s just say the Borg might approve), the problem I have is that this book is clearly, clearly set in the modern day right down to the the music playing on the radio. We don’t have the tech for what’s going down in the book (or I sure as heck hope we don’t. I now see how this book could be paranoia fodder, now that I think about it) and so I’m finding it a bit difficult to suspend my disbelief and buy into it. I think I might have liked it a touch more had it stayed more thriller and less sci-fi. Then again, if he did, this wouldn’t be Wendig, wouldn’t it?

All told, I do think this is a very well written book and I can see why people love Wendig. His writing is fun and easy to read, he’s got a nice mix of characters that you want to root for, and the villain is suitable evil. I think people who dig science fiction will find this an absolute no-brainer and even with my gripes, I still enjoyed myself and think this book has some cross-over appeal simply because it does feel current.

I’m happy that I gave this book a chance, and I think you will be too.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: August 18th

(P.S. Between AIDAN, Talis and now Typhon, it’s quite the year for AI isn’t it?)

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