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Level 26: Dark Origins Hardcover – September 8, 2009

3.2 out of 5 stars 145 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Level 26 Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unlock a new level of fear

It is well known among law enforcement personnel that murderers can be categorized on a scale of twenty- five levels of evil, from the naive opportunists starting out at Level 1 to the organized, premeditated torture- murderers who inhabit Level 25.

What almost no one knows—except for the elite unnamed investigations group assigned to hunt down the world’s most dangerous killers, a group of men and women accounted for in no official ledger, headed by the brilliant but reluctant operative Steve Dark—is that a new category of killer is in the process of being defined.

Only one man belongs to this group.

His targets: Anyone
His methods:Unlimited
His alias: Sqweegel
His classification: Level 26

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the Dark side.

The first television script I ever wrote was CSI. Almost overnight, the CSI franchise surpassed my wildest dreams and became a cultural phenomenon. And now, I am extremely pleased to announce my next project, Level 26: Dark Origins. Level 26 takes the best features of books, film, and interactive digital technologies and rolls them all into a unique storytelling experience we’re calling the world’s first “Digi-Novel™.”

Level 26: Dark Origins features Steve Dark, the ultimate crime scene tactician on the tail of a killer so brutal law enforcement has invented a new classification of evil to account for him. Dark Origins can be read on the beach or on an airplane without any digital access . . . but where the traditional story ends, a deeper level of immersion is available at www.level26.com, exclusively to readers of the book. About every twenty pages, you will have the option of logging in to experience a digital cyber-bridge—a three-minute motion picture scene with A-list actors you might’ve seen in blockbuster films and award winning TV shows. Before your eyes, the characters will spring to life, crime scene details will explode off the screen, and the Web site might even ask for a phone number—where the killer can reach you directly. You might call it CSI with an edge.

Level 26 is not just something you read. It’s an experience. Read, watch, log in. Enjoy!

Anthony E. Zuiker

From Publishers Weekly

CSI creator Zuiker teams with Swierczynski (Severance Package) to create what's billed as the world's first digi-novel, involving a seriously weird serial killer and the tortured FBI investigator who's forced to hunt him down. There's nothing really new about the basic concept, but Swierczynski handles the writing with assurance and verve. The killer, known as Sqweegel, is a psychopath who has shot, raped, maimed, poisoned, burned, strangled, and tortured upwards of fifty people in six countries over a span of more than twenty years. The investigator, Steve Dark, lives a quiet life with his beloved, pregnant wife, in Malibu, Calif. The digital concept kicks in every 20 pages or so when the reader is referred to a Web site containing 20 two- to three-minute professionally made film clips that bridge the action from one section to another. It's a bit like watching the extras on a DVD—fun, but not really necessary to the main event. 200,000 first printing.(Sept.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951254
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Interesting concept, but a plot that left much to be desired... Level 26: Dark Origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski. This book showed up at the local library, and the concept was enough to draw me in... The book is termed a "digi-novel", in that there are a number of website video vignettes that are supposed to add to the overall story. For instance, an international conference call is held to update the status on finding the killer. The web-based video shows the actual call as the author envisioned it. You can read the story without referencing the website at all, but it's supposed to add to the overall experience.

That's the "interesting concept" part of the book. The story itself is grotesque crime horror, but leaves quite a bit to be desired. Murderers are assigned a classification level based on the types of killers and their motivation. The high-end of this scale is level 25. But as the title would indicate, there's one killer who is more evil and horrific than any other in history, hence the level 26 classification. Many over the years have gone after this killer, nicknamed "Squweegel", but only one has come close... Steve Dark. But Dark lost his foster family to Squweegel in a particular nasty killing, so he's out of the picture. That is, until the secret government unit assigned to tracking down killers coerces him back into the game. Dark is pretty sure he's not going to cave into their demand, but Squweegel has different ideas. A few well-timed incidents proves to Dark that Squweegel is again after him, and Dark has no choice but to go back on offense to protect all that he's gained since his life was nearly destroyed the first time.

First off, a warning... If you don't like gruesome explicit violence, pass on this. It's graphic.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was disappointing on several levels. First, it should be advertised as "produced by Anthony E. Zuiker" as it appears that the actual author is Duane Swierczynski. Mr Zuiker seems to be cashing in some of his TV credibility based on the success of the CSI franchise to create some sort of social networking site based on a series of books, this being the "pilot". Sorry Mr. Zuiker: after my initial order of one episode, you are on the cancellation list. As other reviewers have noted, following the links provided in the books to see the interactive/internet portions of the novel is not a simple matter of typing the address into your browser and going right to the material. You have to register with a valid e-mail address, and even then you aren't given access to the material: you have to join their community. Appears to be a marketing data mining effort.

Second, in my opinion, the book isn't well written. The 406-page book is chopped up into 107 chapters! Great for readers with attention deficit syndrome, I guess, but not so good for character and plot development (there was none). The main character, the serial killer nicknamed Sweegel isn't believable at all and you really learn nothing about the character that would explain his financial independence, technological expertise, or the reason behind his God-complex killing spree. You are asked to believe that this fellow jets around the world killing people with ease, physically overpowering and out-maneuvering victims and special agents alike, planting technologically advanced monitoring devices within the most elite government agencies, and physically fitting into and out of spaces and situations with ease, all while being described as an "emaciated, ghost-thin man" and "a five-foot, six-inch, 126-pound stick bug".
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Format: Hardcover
Allow me to start by saying two very crucial things: The first being, I will be spoiling parts of the so-called "plot". The second being, I am very tired and sleep deprived from working all night (god bless 3rd shift), BUT LET IT BE KNOWN MY HATRED OF THIS BOOK OUTWEIGHS MY NEED OF SLEEP.

*SPOILERS AHEAD* (I'm saying it twice to be thorough)


So, to start-I REALLY wanted to like this book. To such an extent, I was telling family and friends about it's upcoming release. The story sounded awesome and the online media seemed to be a swell idea. NOW, I have to apologize to every person I hyped the book to (my bad), because it is a far cry from what I expected.

For starters- let's examine the biggest cliche in the book: OUR MAIN CHARACTER. Steve Dark, a (former) "special" agent who loses it all, goes mildly insane, goes rogue, battles booze, blah,blah,blah...Can I be the first to say, Mr. Zuiker might as well have called him Doomy McDoom n' Gloom? Seriously, everything about Steve Dark made me hate him, even his name. Why? Because this type of character has appeared in stories of this genre for YEARS. (Max Payne?) The tortured soul, we get it. It's overdone. And to make matters worse, he's the only agent who ever got close to catching the villain a few years ago, nobody else in the present day wants to attempt catching him, and they pull the "nobody-else-will-do-it-Steve,-please-come-out-of-retirement-and-alcoholism-and-find-the-killer" card.

Next, we have the relationship between the killer (I'd spell his name but for the life of me can't remember how-oh well), Schqweguall and Dark. Have you ever heard the term Cat and Mouse? Good. Well, let's take that term, and BEAT IT TO DEATH WITH A RUBBER MALLET.
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