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Zeroes: A Novel Kindle Edition
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“[A] high-octane blend of nervy characters, dark humor and bristling dialogue... smart, timely, electrifying.”
An exhilarating thrill-ride through the underbelly of cyber espionage in the vein of David Ignatius’s The Director and the television series Leverage, CSI: Cyber, and Person of Interest, which follows five iconoclastic hackers who are coerced into serving the U.S. government.
An Anonymous-style rabble rouser, an Arab spring hactivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll are each offered a choice: go to prison or help protect the United States, putting their brains and skills to work for the government for one year.
But being a white-hat doesn’t always mean you work for the good guys. The would-be cyberspies discover that behind the scenes lurks a sinister NSA program, an artificial intelligence code-named Typhon, that has origins and an evolution both dangerous and disturbing. And if it’s not brought down, will soon be uncontrollable.
Can the hackers escape their federal watchers and confront Typhon and its mysterious creator? And what does the government really want them to do? If they decide to turn the tables, will their own secrets be exposed—and their lives erased like lines of bad code?
Combining the scientific-based, propulsive narrative style of Michael Crichton with the eerie atmosphere and conspiracy themes of The X-Files and the imaginative, speculative edge of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, Zer0es explores our deep-seated fears about government surveillance and hacking in an inventive fast-paced novel sure to earn Chuck Wendig the widespread acclaim he deserves.
“[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
- ASIN : B00Q33FYZO
- Publisher : Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (August 18, 2015)
- Publication date : August 18, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 940 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 432 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #7,891 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #14 in Read & Listen for $14.99 or Less
- #26 in Technothrillers (Kindle Store)
- #28 in Read & Listen for Less
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on October 1, 2017
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Chuck Wendig's Zeroes seems to strike a good middle ground. It approaches hacking more realistically and not just the breaking onto security systems, but stealing credit cards, trolling, and just plain old research.
Zeroes (or Zer0es) is a deceptive novel. It starts off rather innocuous enough. We are introduced chapter by chapter to a cast of misfit hackers, and internet trolls. The opening of the book rounds up our cast of five characters as government forces arrest them one by one. They are each offered a deal, work for the government or go up the river. To some of them, it would also mean hurting loved ones or putting them in danger as one has been helping with the Arab Spring.
What follows would normally play out as a dirty dozen scenario. Do the job, stay out of jail. We get the interaction and banter between a group of individuals that really have no reason to like each other. There is a rivalry with another cell of hackers (really only one guy) at the same compound that they are held, called the Hunting Lodge. It ends up uniting them, actually.
A good percentage of the book, almost half of it, involves "pen tests," penetration tests into targets just to see how deep they can go. Their progress is monitored and logged and supposedly they are graded at how well they do at their probes. It will turn out that they were doing more hrm than they thuoght they were doing. I am remonded of Ender's Game where the simulations were not simulations.
Yet they are still basically in a prison and one that is not covered by any sort of penal regulations. So, of course, we have a motley crew of sadistic guards who are bored watching a bunch of loser nerds typing at computers and just want an excuse to toss someone into sensory deprivation tank for a day.
Halfway through the book, things hit the fan. It begins to occur that theses tests are not merely tests and bad things are beginning to happen around the world. At the core of it is an enigma that keeps popping up. Typhon. Who or what exactly is it? And just like that, what started off as a sort of techno-thriller, becomes a science fiction adventure with elements of horror to it.
There is enough action sequences for a Hollywood blockbuster and times it feels like this was written originally as a movie or even a big budget HBO or Netflix mini-series.
Wendig writes his does not introduce any particularly new science to the genre, and whatever complicated concepts there are, he explains everything without talking down to the audience or making info dumps.
But what really moves the book is its cast of characters. Each one of them has a personal history and a personality that comes though in the novel and we do root for our main cast even the Reagan, the internet troll. Wendig has a lot of experience with internet trolls if you follow him on Twitter, an he surprisingly, does not fully demonize her.
In the end, these five not particularly talented misfits have to combine their moderate skills to save the world. Really, they have to save the world.
The book does tease at sequel at the end that has yet to appear. Invasive which takes place in the same world is not a direct sequel. But what we get is a fun ride with a fun and motley cast of characters.
The premise behind the group of protagonists is kind of a Suicide Squad setup: they are all hackerish types who have had some involvement on the wrong side of the law, so when the authorities rope them in they offer to enlist their services as white-hat crackers in return for a chance to stay out of prison. They are overseen by a taciturn tough guy by the name of Hollis Copper who has his own fraught backstory to add more spice to the mix. Once we are intriduced to the core group, the author proceeds to tighten the screws by means of interpersonal tensions, sadistic guards, relentless surveillance and regimentation, and a series of mysterious missions where we begin to learn about each member's capabilities. There's a fair bit of physical menace along with psychological abuse for those who flout the rules. I think I liked this part of the book the best because of the interesting way these individuals were brought into focus through their words and actions. Over the course of time, the team begins to catch a whiff of something not quite right and they begin freelancing to get answers about the underlying basis of the cyberstate. Pretty soon, the whole thing falls apart, the inmates have gained their freedom, and there are all sorts of bad guys coming after them as they crisscross the country.
There are vignettes illustrating the ruthlessness of the major players who are pulling the strings of our heroes. The main framing story, set on a train in Siberia, I never quite placed in relation to the rest of the action; I think I just missed the clues I needed to understand when this fit in with the rest of the story. The secondary characters who either help or hinder the good guys as they beat the odds against taking down the monster AI are for the most part drawn pretty well too.
The second book in the series is set in the same world but with different characters. I might pick it up sometime when I am looking for this kind of thrill ride.
Chance, a guy who did one hacker-type thing, gets roped into a (coven? what's the collective noun for hackers?) of real hackers to work on a secret government project. The group doesn't know what the project is, and maybe the people in charge don't even know what it's becoming. Amazon compares the story to the tv show Leverage; it's a good comparison till about halfway through when we start to realize what's really going on. At that point it turns into a science fiction thriller and I quit doing anything else till I finished the book.
The characters are lively, there's lots of interesting hacker stuff, and the AI is terrifying. At one point I realized I was right on board with the doomsday prepper family, which is a place I haven't been since I binged on Heinlein in the 1970s.
Seriously, though, it did make me think about how much of our lives is potentially vulnerable to being messed with by anyone/anything with an internet connection, hacking skills, and evil intent. Traffic lights, for example. A minor character's pacemaker is hacked, which Google tells me was actually a problem that had to be fixed with a firmware update a few years ago. And all the mundane stuff like smart refrigerators - not that anyone would care if I was running out of shredded cheese (if I had a smart refrigerator, which I don't), but still... I do run across articles about this stuff now and then, and generally ignore them, but this book forced me to face it head on.
This is the first in a series. Three head-scratching chapters seem to be setup for the next one. I'll be looking for it
Top reviews from other countries
I read the first 10% as a sample and loved the character introductions and character building. Kind of a magnificent 7 style of pulling people together.
Then I got a hint of what was happening and bought the book. Some developments ensured.
First... I cannot put my finger on it, but it's like he coloured in high-def the characters in the beginning, and then for the mid-to-end section of the book, he didn't maintain it somehow and they slipped from high-def to VHS copy-of-copy. Or like crispy french fries eaten following morning.
Regarding the book itself. I could see the logical consistency of where it was going, and how the plot finished, but it was almost as if there was a simple ending, and via inertia/gravity, the writing went to that ending.
Good book, will probably buy more from the author, but not 4 stars or 5.
The characters are just bland and one dimensional, caricatures of people. It’s as if you don’t write about people you know, but about characters from a tv show. The plot is very formulaic and predictable, basically regurgitating your average tv show. It feels like it was all planned to get cool shots instead of telling a good story. There are lots of cool “hero moments” but they don’t feel well connected to the story or the motivation of the characters, they are there because they would just look cool. There are supposed to be big ideas about internet culture, AI, and politics, but they come across as very naive and superficial. The writing itself is very poor, using lots of similes and the language lacking in variety.
I was going to stop reading after the first quarter of the book, but it was at least fast paced and easy to read. It was like reading a movie, so I didn’t mind it as much. Once I got to two thirds of the book, the style became tiring and boring, and it was a slog to finish it. The sunk costs fallacy got me this time.
Overall, I would definitely love to see this as a movie or comic, but I would not read any sequels.
Unfortunately, it isn't all roses and explosions. It feels a little nitpicky when I'm reading this back but the authors overuse of similes really took me out of the moment so many times. I mean one sentence early on in the book had three similes in a couple of lines. If it wasn't so jarring I would have been impressed. Also I don't think a single punch was thrown in the whole book they were all pistoned in, again it is a small thing but I found it really distracting.
It's a shame that after coming up with a good premise, populating the world with some interesting characters and ramping up the action nicely in the middle that the ending is such a disappointment. It felt almost like the author arrived at the end without a clear idea what to do next and so just faded to black.
Zer0es is a book with a good premise and some memorable characters let down by a weak ending and some sloppy writing.
Chuck Wendig’s Zer0es floods this world with light and gives it a science fiction uppercut that knocks the reader spark-out. Protagonists Chance Dalton—people hacker—DeAndre Mitchell—hacker fantastic—Aleena Kattan—hacktivist—Reagan Stolper—super troll—and Wade Earthman—cyberpunk—are rounded up by the government and put to work, tasked with dismantling companies and countries from an isolated lodge with its own torture chamber. Little do they know that they’re actually working for an artificial intelligence that soon turns out to be not so artificial after all.
Zer0es is a horrifying piece of science fiction that will leave the reader skull-scratching often—not because of confusion, but because Wendig’s visceral imagery leaves a physical mark, an impressive feat considering the novel’s focus on the digital realm. The characters all feel ‘real’ too, from the man-with-a-past Dalton to the many-cracks-a-minute Stolper, giving Zer0es a terribly sharp edge that cuts several ways almost every page. A few characters do have similar backstories (FBI man Hollis Copper also ‘has a past’), but such repetition is barely noticeable. A brief un-spoiling word on the not-quite-AI Typhon: this is where the horror comes from. Enough said.
Wendig’s novel is equally strong in the background. The hackers and their world feel realistic, despite the fact that (hopefully) a lot of liberties have been taken. The chances of a group of hackers bringing down an airplane are pretty remote, right? Right?! Wendig’s research was thorough, and it’s expertly played throughout the novel, giving the story a grounded feel even as drones blow their targets sky high and a blackout leaves New York without power for weeks. Even the NSA and other featured US agencies talk to the talk. If cyber warfare isn’t like this, it should be.
Zer0es is a wotisit for the smartphone generation. It rocks, rolls and frightens perfectly, and even leaves room for a sequel. Superb
Important systems are actually safe from hackers, so it is total fantasy.
I got disgusted by the violent imagery that came in towards the end.