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Zeroes: A Novel Hardcover – August 18, 2015
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“This taut thriller will reinforce your paranoia about big government, big data, and that big, nerdy barista who just seems to know too much.” (Wall Street Journal)
“[A] high-octane blend of nervy characters, dark humor and bristling dialogue... smart, timely, electrifying.” (NPR)
“Highly cinematic.” (Library Journal)
“With complex characters and feverishly paced action, ZEROES is a sci-fi thriller that won’t stop blowing your mind until the last page. ... It left me rooting for the hackers!” (Daniel H. Wilson, bestselling author of Robopocalypse)
“ZERØES turns ones and zeroes into pure gold - Wendig hacks the action thriller.” (Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author)
“A sci-fi surveillance thriller with a twisted heart of creepy horror. It grabs you by the throat on page one, and never lets go.” (Ramez Naam, author of The Nexus Trilogy)
“A Matrix-y bit of old-school cyberpunk updated to meet the frightening technology of the modern age...An ambitious, bleeding-edge piece of speculative fiction that combines hacker lore, wet-wired horror, and contemporary paranoia in a propulsive adventure that’s bound to keep readers on their toes.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Wendig wields the tools of suspense and tension with skill. His large cast of characters is entertaining, the moments of horror are sharp and chilling, and the story races to a breathless conclusion.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Wendig’s second novel is a splendidly profane slice of urban fantasy--hard, dark and fast. Slick one-liners and laugh-out-loud descriptions pepper the prose, macking Blackbirds a black comedy that even the Grim Reaper could smile at.” (Financial Times)
“Wendig writes hard and fast and this is a slick noirish thriller.” (The Independent, on Blackbirds)
“A gleefully dark, twisted road trip for everyone who thought Fight Club was too warm and fuzzy. I loved it, and will be seeking professional help as soon as Chuck lets me out of his basement.” (James Moran, Dr. Who writer, on Blackbirds)
“ZEROES is a very powerful development of the idea of science as magic, with a cast of unwitting sorcerors’ apprentices. It asks a lot of real-world questions, both moral and practical.... It might make you nostalgic for Mr. Gibson’s “Neuromancer”: Life was so much simpler back in the ‘80s.” (Wall Street Journal)
From the Back Cover
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. Calling themselves “the Zeroes,” they must spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, at a secret complex known only as “the Lodge.”
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.
“This taut thriller will reinforce your paranoia about big government, big data, and that big, nerdy barista who just seems to know too much.” Wall Street Journal
“Won’t stop blowing your mind until the last page.” Daniel H. Wilson, bestselling author of Robopocalypse
Top Customer Reviews
This awful mess is what happens when a halfway-decent author who knows nothing about computers, networking, the Internet, and technology in general decides to write a 'hacker' novel. And, in the process, recycles tired, overused plot devices and typical 'cyber-'nonense characterization - if you can call it that - which are utterly predictable and so overused as to have become self-satirizing.
If you work in any aspect of the IT, networking, or information security disciplines, avoid this book like the plague; the author comes out with some cringe-inducing clanger every page or so. If you know nothing about these things, you should still avoid this book like the plague, because the author has apparently forgotten everything he knows about decent plotting, robust characterization, and is phoning it into a sea of incompetent, incoherent technobabble.
One of the most disappointing books I've ever bought. A real stinker.
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
Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Edelweiss
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!
The novel focuses on five hackers recruited by the U.S. government, given the opportunity to avoid conviction, jail time, and exposure by committing their services to a top-secret program. Being hackers, they don’t just blindly follow orders, and soon they’re asking questions and digging much deeper than anyone ever expected them to, and coming up with shocking and frightening answers.
With the fantastic TV series Leverage named as one of the novel’s touchstones, it’s not too surprising that each of the hacker main characters has a specific role to play: social engineer, cyber criminal, hacktivist, internet troll, cipherpunk. Their situations and backgrounds may remind some readers of recent news headlines; Chance Dalton’s situation clearly recalls the Steubenville High School rape case, while Aleena Kattan’s political agenda is inspired by Anonymous’ involvement in the Arab Spring. But just as Leverage‘s Parker is more than a thief, Wendig fleshes out his characters beyond their stereotypes, often subverting your expectations of who they really are, what motivates them, and what they’ll do next. By the end of the novel, you become invested in and care for even the most unlikable characters, which is both satisfying and unfortunate in a book with a startlingly high body count.
Striking a balance between not-so-riveting computer time and real world action is challenging in stories like this, but Wendig handles it deftly, and the novel is incredibly fast-paced. A big revelation, twist, or cliffhanger seems to hit readers every few pages. I am not often moved to swear at books or authors while reading, especially when I’m having so much fun, but many a chapter ended with me muttering, “Jesus Christ, Chuck.” This book is bloody and gruesome and too compelling to put down. You just have to wait for your pulse to slow, shake your head, and keep turning the pages.
The book also isn’t burdened by techsposition, a tendency to include too much computer jargon and explaining every scintillating facet of their technological exploits. But there’s enough for non-technical readers to follow along, and plenty for those who know a bit more. A lot of the hacking in the book is more than realistic — it’s actually real in the world today, and if Wendig’s representation of how easy it is to hack your social network accounts or even your car doesn’t creep you out sufficiently, you’d better start Googling. So much of the technology in the first half of the book is so accurate, by the time Wendig starts pulling out the slightly less believable black boxes, most readers will be happy to accept them as well-earned creative license and move on.
However, that same contemporary, convincing portrayal of computers and hacking may also work against the book as the plot progresses and takes a decidedly science fictional turn that strains credibility. Despite the shift in tone and shaken expectations, I was happy to ride it out to the end. Perhaps more disturbing is the possibility that Wendig is right about this secret government program too, since everything else is right on the mark. If he soon disappears under mysterious circumstances, we’ll have our answer.
Although the prologue/epilogue of “Chapter 0″ fell flat for me, they’re short enough to simply ignore. Overall, Zer0es is a terrific success: an exciting, scary, and often funny novel that offers fresh insights into what it means and what it’s like to be a hacker. It now has a place among my favorite books featuring hacking, and it has certainly raised the bar for those that follow.