Zer0es by Chuck Wendig is the first in a sci-fi thriller series starring five misfit hackers and a very creepy artificial intelligence program! This is my first Wendig book and may not have been the best to start with, but it is hard for me to resist hacker characters and fairly accurate computer science ;-). If you’re a fan of hard sci-fi with plenty of computer jargon and a fair number of characters, be sure to check Zer0es out!
Note: I received an advanced copy of Zer0es from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig (Zer0es #1)
Published by Harper Voyager on Aug. 18th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Sci-fi, Thriller
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Edelweiss
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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."
- The thing that really drew me into reading Zer0es was the creepy AI premise and it definitely delivers. I’m a sucker for any thought experiment that looks at a human creation doing what it was programmed to do a little too well ;-). The mystery of trying to figure out exactly what is going on was built up nicely and I had a lot of fun trying to guess how things would turn out and was wrong, ha.
- Determining whether or not you’ll like Zer0es probably hinges on how you like your characters. Do you like broken and clearly grey-zone characters that sometimes are good, but often make questionable decisions? If so, Zer0es is for you! I knew going in that Zer0es would have broken characters and that was a big selling point for me. I love characters that are as flawed as I feel some days because there is always a reason they act that way and it gives them room to grow and overcome. That does mean that they might rub you the wrong way initially though ;-).
- As a computer/computational scientist, I’m a bit picky about computer details. Not as picky as I am with biology, but still. It was nice to see that Zer0es was fairly accurate, at least as far as I could tell since I’m not a hacker!
- A question that is of growing interest in both the computer science community and the public is the issue of privacy. How much privacy is worth giving up for safety? It is a really, really sticky question that is crazy hard to answer for even an individual, let alone a whole society. For that reason, I appreciate seeing it discussed in sci-fi, since then at least we’ll all think about it.
- Zer0es starts pretty slow. You’d think that opening with a torture scene would get things moving along quickly, but there is a lot of setup that needs to be done to get everyone into the right place for the plot to actual start. Be prepared!
- One of the reasons for the slow start is a few too many characters. Each of the five hackers has to get their own introduction scene along with a few other secondary characters popping in from time to time. I feel like I can tell you a short summary of each character and their past, but nothing much more than that. There just wasn’t enough page time with each person for me to really connect and feel for them.
- Zer0es has an odd writing quirk that popped up from time to time where a piece of dialogue or action would be really easy to show, but instead it is summarized in a “tell” sentence. I really dislike this technique and am not really sure why authors use it when they are clearly able to show events in the rest of the book. In any case, those moments threw me out of the story abruptly because they put the characters at arm’s length.
Zer0es is a sci-fi that will appeal to a certain reader. I hope that I’ve helped you decide if you are that reader or not ;-). I definitely enjoyed myself at times, though I wish that the great plot and characters could have been accompanied by different style decisions so I could really delve in to the story. I’m quite curious to hear how Zer0es compares to Wendig’s other books since I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. Tell me your thoughts!
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig
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