Friday, 30 October 2015

Review - Zeroes by Chuck Wendig

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."

When I first saw the blurb for this I was incredibly excited. Wendig... hackers... and the dark alleys of the internet... sounds like a match made in heaven doesn't it? Well I am glad to report that my excitement was not misplaced, and whilst there are some flaws with this book, overall I found it to be very entertaining and thought provoking. 

Zer0es tells the story of five hackers who work for the U.S. government (in order to avoid prison) at a secret complex called the Lodge. As they work they uncover a mystery known as Typhoon, a computer virus and artificial intelligence not confined to a computer. Using all of the skills they must uncover the mystery of Typhoon and stop it before it takes over the world. Sounds like a Hollywood movie right? Well Zer0es does read like a blockbuster, with plenty of excitement and thrills and a rocket powered pace that hurtles you through unrelenting page after page. The plot itself was very believable and enjoyable, and incredibly accessible for someone (like me) with very little knowledge about hacking or computer science. I also really enjoyed how the story changed from a tech thriller to a science fiction novel seamlessly and back again throughout the book. What let Zer0es down (to an extent) was its characterisation. Each hacker is never really deeply explored or defined as an individual, and they all tended to behave as you expected them to as the plot unfolded (just like in a movie). I adored Reagan (probably because she was so unlikeable as an online troll.. her character was fascinating) and Wade, but found myself struggling to relate to or sympathise with some of the others. The dialogue and interplay between them was (as expected with a Wendig novel) snappy and fun but I still struggled at times to empathise with their plight. Perhaps it was because I felt that they struggled to break free from that 'intelligent and snarky hacker' archetype. I still can't really put my finger on it. Did this detract from my overall enjoyment of the book though? No, not really. Zer0es is a fun and adventurous read that reminded me in some ways of the books by Matthew Reilly. It is a book that is great to rip through and enjoy in a sitting or two, but it won't rock the foundations of your core in any major way.

Wendig has moved out his comfort zone with this book, and that should be applauded. This is probably also his most accessible book to date for readers who are not familiar with his other work (you really should read his other work too... it's great), and highlights his desire to break free of that 'genre author' mould.

Is Zer0es a story full of depth and philosophical discussion? No. But it sure ticked all of the entertainment boxes for me. Be prepared for 'out there' theories and tangents, and plenty of cyber warfare, weirdness and action. Oh and hold onto your socks... cuz it's a fast ride!

3.5 out of 5 stars.

A review copy was provided. 

No comments:

Post a Comment