Top positive review
Cyberthrillers: a comparison of Counting from Zero and Zero Day
August 11, 2012
Last year, I read Daemon by Daniel Suarez, which was the first book I've read that is classified as a cyberthriller (or technothriller). I found Daemon to be very good, and looked around for similar books. Two interesting ones I found were Counting from Zero by Alan Johnston and Zero Day by Mark Russinovitch (not to be confused with Zero Day by David Baldacci).
The two books have similar plots: Someone has released a virus that is affecting computers all over the world, and a cybersecurity guy (plus a cybersecurity gal that the cybersecurity guy thinks is hot) try to save the world from returning to the Stone Age (no computers means no power generation, etc.).
Counting from Zero is written pretty well, with believable characters that developed as the book progressed. I found it interesting - not as good as Daemon, but worth my time and money. (Reading over this, it sounds like I've "damned this book with faint praise". But the book is good, really!)
And then there's the other book, Zero Day. Let's see how what I wrote for Counting from Zero applies to Zero Day:
Written pretty well? Yes, although ZD has technical details intermeshed with the narrative, so the reader gets bogged down trying to make their way through "thrilling" sentences such as "BIOS [...] was the code programmed into the computer itself that started the computer and was responsible for reading the initial part of the operating system code from the first sector of the hard disk into memory and executing it" (can you bear the suspense?). CfZ uses a better approach to technical details: each chapter starts with a discussion of a technical topic in the form of a blog written by the main character. If you skip these, you won't miss out on any of the plot line, and there is more suspense because you don't have to wade through technical jargon scattered throughout the chapters, as in ZD.
Believable characters that developed as the book progressed? No. Other reviewers complain about the flat characters, the predictable storyline and the fact that almost all the Americans were Good Guys while all of the people from other countries were Bad Guys. Those reviewers are right.
I found it interesting? ZD starts with an airliner almost crashing because the computer system has been infected with a virus. The plane survives, but the rest of the book crashes. By the middle, I was unable to read more than a page without falling asleep (literally!) or realizing that I had just skimmed over the text without comprehending it.
Worth my time and money? No. I stopped reading after I noticed I was watching grass grow because the excitement level was much higher than trying to plod through this book. Good thing I didn't pay serious money for a hardcover, otherwise I would be mad enough for wasting my money on Zero Day that I might try to get even by writing a computer virus and infecting the author's computer with it! :)
So if you want to read a good cyberthriller, read Daemon or Counting from Zero. On the other hand, if you're like several other reviewers who apparently find that reading through computer source code is exciting stuff, then Zero Day is for you!