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Zeroes: A Novel by Chuck Wendig

Zeroes: A Novel

by Chuck Wendig

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Hackers are caught, but offered a chance to work for the government rather than go to jail. But once they begin, they start to find there is something very wrong going on, and that they are being used to forward the conspiracy. How to figure out what is really going on, and survive it, is the issue. ( )
  majkia | Jan 15, 2016 |
Chuck Wendig really did his research for Zer0es, the characters really tap into the hacker world and I loved that. However, the plot, setting, and pace didn't work for me. Five hackers are forced to work for the government to hack for vulnerabilities in companies and other countries infrastructure, but it turns out there's more going on. Think Terminator meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo world, with a pinch of The Martian, sounds good, but becomes messy. Things are left hanging, the plot jumps around, unnecessary romance flair up and the hackers are all put together forced to live, work and hang out together like numerous dystopia novels. A lot going on without much depth. ( )
  GrlIntrrptdRdng | Nov 9, 2015 |
A super fun hacker thriller. Characters are well developed and their interactions as they are thrown into a very interesting situation are great. Fast paced, culturally diverse, and with a fun sub-plot line that opens and ends the book. ( )
  aachamberlynn | Nov 1, 2015 |
Full Review at Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2015/08/17/review-zer0es-by-chuck-wendig/

I expect I may have some unpopular opinions on this .

Actual rating for me is a 2.5.

I have a strong regard for Wendig and his other books, so I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it: I was disappointed. I wanted to love or at least really like this book and felt like I hit obstacle after obstacle. Some of my complaints are more minor, but they cumulate to an overall less than positive reaction to the book. I hate writing negative reviews and it turns out I like it even less for an author I have enjoyed in the past. So, if you have not read Wendig before, please don’t let this negative review discourage you from his other books. And I will admit, I may be a minority opinion on this, so I encourage you to read other reviews and see what other readers have to say about it.

Getting many perspectives in a book can provide benefit for the reader as we get a wider view of what is going on. But I also think it is something that can go wrong quickly if not done well. I want my characters to be individuals, to have personalities and substance. What I feel happened in this book is Wendig tried to cover too many characters, bouncing between them and leaving the reader without that connection we need to relate to them. He featured a wonderfully diverse cast, but without real depth to any of them it started to almost feel like a checklist of stereotypes. And in all fairness, I don’t want to say I think Wendig is trying to perpetuate stereotypes, much of the humor in the book I think was actually trying to dispel stereotypes. But, I still felt like these characters were defined by the traits that could make them stereotypes because there just was not enough else to them.

So, past the characters, lets talk a bit about plot.

A mysterious project? Lots of hacker types? Yeah, I’m in. Let’s do this. And in the beginning, I was quite intrigued. I do think the concept of this book is good, and I think there’s a good story in there. But unfortunately it quit working for me about half way through the book. I have admitted before, I often don’t do well with “weird”. Some books wave their weirdness flag from the beginning and I know what I’m getting into and adjust my expectations, or at least prepare myself. Others gradually ease you into it letting some of us that have a lower tolerance gradually get there bit by bit, adjusting to it as the story progresses as we don’t have to take it all in at once. This one? It comes on full force in the second half and just kind of slaps you in the face. I just wasn’t prepared. Perhaps looking back I should have been, but some of the scenes and turns in this book just left me thinking “WTF? Really?” And not in a good way. Once again, I think my lack of connection to the characters made this harder for me.

I do expect I’ll likely be a minority opinion on this, and I encourage people to consider other reviews before writing this one of completely, but I had to share my honest reaction and this is what it came to. For me, I will likely stick to Wendig’s books that have a smaller cast, where I get a stronger connection to just one or two characters.
( )
  tenaciousreader | Oct 6, 2015 |
Readers are taken on a wild ride through the dark side of the internet in what might be Chuck Wendig’s most ambitious novel to date. Exploring the world of hackers, cybercrime and artificial intelligence, Zer0es is a sci-fi thriller featuring the largest cast he’s ever written, as well as a scope that spans the entire nation. As a fan of the author, I knew I had to check this one out as soon as I learned about it, and by the by, I also found reading it to be an enlightening experience given how different it is from his past work I’ve enjoyed. It was easy to spot areas where Wendig played to his strengths and conversely those areas where he may have been out of his comfort zone. Any way you look at it though, this was an interesting one.

Zer0es basically makes for fabulous popcorn entertainment, like a summer Hollywood blockbuster in book form. In fact, as strange as it sounds, all I could think about was the movie Now You See Me as I was making my way through the first handful of chapters – not that the film bears any similarity to the book’s story at all, other than the fact both feature a group of extremely talented individuals (in NYSM, street magicians; in Zer0es, hackers…though to a computer programming and coding noob like me, hacking might as well be magic) who are brought together by a mysterious benefactor. No, what struck me was the similar tone of both movie and novel, exuding a vibe meant to provide both fun and entertainment to the consumer experience. You know those kind of stories.

Still, what I really want to talk about in this review are the characters. This group of five hackers calling themselves “the Zeroes” – Chance, Reagan, Aleena, DeAndre and Wade – held the key to my experience of this book, and were often at the center of what I loved and what I didn’t love about it. In a general sense, the type of Hollywood blockbuster energy that came off the story wasn’t so very different from what I got off of the characters either – to a one, they were intelligent, charismatic and witty, delivering line after line of cleverly constructed dialogue like they were all reading off a written script. Wendig is a master of dialogue writing after all, and he has a very distinct and droll sense of humor that’s unmistakable when you see it; it is this talent of his that made me fall in love with his protagonists Miriam Black or Mookie Pearl in their respective urban fantasy series.

In a book like Zer0es though, I think the biggest challenge was to make each of the five hacker main characters stand out, and the results came out mixed. Wendig crafts very compelling characters, and I can’t deny that all of them are memorable and unique in their own way. At the same time though, Zer0es is probably also the most “mainstream” book I feel the author has ever written, complete with an improbable yet wildly enjoyable premise that’s heavy on the edge-of-your-seat action and suspense. In keeping with this, the characters also have a very “Hollywood-movie-like” feel to them, despite efforts to give them convincing backgrounds and personalities. In many ways, they remain as archetypal as the hacker roles they are pigeonholed into – the bombastic no-filter-between-her-brain-and-her mouth Reagan is of course the professional online troll, for example, and the libertarian hippie gun-loving conspiracy theorist Wade is naturally the aging cipherpunk who still prefers to do things the “old-school way”.

Still, while the characters may be thinly-written, they were still a lot of fun to read about. The five of them have mass audience appeal, perhaps precisely because they play to reader expectations. Of course, the downside of clichés is that it also makes it harder to care about the characters. I readily admit to having trouble engaging with any of them at the start, which was absolutely not helped by the fact all of them came off as arrogant, snarky snobs who were too smart for their own good (but like I was saying, when you’re playing to the hacker stereotype, all that is most likely by design). Of all of them, Reagan was especially off-putting (again, by design) and I never grew to like her, though by the end of the book I did develop a soft spot for Wade, partly because he showed the most leadership but also mainly because he’s someone very different from a lot of Chuck Wendig’s other characters. This is the first time I’ve seen him juggle this many characters in a novel, and even though the balance wasn’t perfect, there was an undeniable thrill to reading all the different POVs.

Then there was the story. For a novel of this length, I blew through it relatively quickly. Like Wendig’s other books, the prose was smooth, easy to read, and the narrative was extremely addictive. As someone who knows completely zip about hackers and hacking, I was thoroughly captivated by the premise, though someone with greater knowledge in networks and cyber-security might find it overly simplistic. Regardless of who you are though, some suspension of disbelief is most definitely required especially once we move into the second half of the novel and the plot starts getting involved in some really insane and out-there theories. But hey, isn’t that what I signed up for? Hollywood blockbuster, remember.

All in all, while Zer0es probably isn’t my favorite book by Chuck Wendig (that distinction still belongs to The Cormorant, third book of his Miriam Black series) I still feel that it’s a bold move in the right direction. It’s always exciting to see one of my favorite authors do something different, and this was an unexpected delight indeed. Well played, Mr. Wendig. I hope to see more of the Zeroes in the future. ( )
  stefferoo | Aug 18, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062351559, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 05 Jul 2015 20:29:42 -0400)

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