I have to say, I’m getting more and more used to these books that prophesies technology killing me. While I still struggle with the urge to throw a book across the room when technology opens up its eyes and there’s intelligence lurking there, I’ve come to enjoy the thrill. It’s a good thing I developed this enjoyment before I started reading Chuck Wendig’s new novel Zer0es because he has crafted another suspenseful masterpiece of whodunitry that revolves around hackers, AI, and government conspiracy.
To begin, I really liked this book. I didn’t think I was going to because tech conspiracy isn’t usually my jam, but by the time I was introduced to each of the main characters and knew a little bit about their backstories, I was hooked. Wendig draws his main cast and his supporting with details that make you understand them even when you can’t like them very much. This isn’t a spoiler because you will know it from the very first chapters of the book, but he even features a bonafide internet troll who I never came to like throughout the course of the novel but did come to understand and, to a certain extent, respect.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Zer0es is not the AI the back cover of the book teases or the morals of hackers individually, but the very real, right-now placement of the story. Aside from the very occasional reference that indicated the story wasn’t taking place in the specific year of 2015, the cultural references throughout including victim-shaming, body-shaming, racism, and bigotry all point to a time period very near our own. When Wendig blends the cultural similarities to 2015 with the technological advances that the government in his story is already playing with – and I use the word ‘playing’ on purpose because they sure as hell aren’t sure enough about what they’re doing – it really will just make you walk through the world looking a little more carefully at the people around you.
Another wonderful layer to his storytelling directly relates to that suspicion of the average men and women around you. From the moment you start reading, you will be surprised by the very ordinariness of the characters he creates. They are men and women of different ages and races, and aside from their hacking abilities or government jobs, they are pretty normal. They have families and homes or the dreams of homes, and they are not highly placed enough anywhere to be considered “famous” by anyone. They are the people who serve coffee, pump gas, and push paper.
All in all, Wendig writes a story that plays hide and seek with a coming apocalypse, a dangerous technology, a growing cult, and international politics. At its center are people who can hack – hack computers, communities, people, and more – and the government agencies that are trying to maintain their grip on reality, virtual and not. If you’re in the mood to be scared silly by the possibilities we create when we mesh our lives with technology, definitely give this a read.
Zer0es will be available on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015.
This review was completed using a copy of the book provided by Harper Voyager.