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ZER0ES

An action-packed yet cerebral thriller that lives in that murky nexus between today and the future.

A group of co-opted hackers discovers a secret government experiment gone terribly wrong.

Prolific sci-fi novelist and games enthusiast Wendig (Under the Empyrean Sky, 2013, etc.) whips up a Matrix-y bit of old-school cyberpunk updated to meet the frightening technology of the modern age. Government agent Hollis Copper is a tough old guy who's been seconded to the National Security Agency to round up a bunch of hackers for a secret project. [They’re an odd bunch. Chance Dalton is an Anonymous poser who uses dark Web tactics to out evildoers. DeAndre Mitchell uses ATM skimmers to pay for his mom’s house. Aleena Kattan uses her wicked code-breaking skills in the name of hacktivism in support of the Arab Spring. Reagan Stolper is a foulmouthed, ill-tempered troll who ruins lives in the name of “lulz.” Finally, there’s Wade Earthman, a Vietnam vet skilled in the dark arts of phishing and phreaking. They’re promised clean records if they devote a year to the NSA’s secret lodge, where pods of hackers work together to penetrate high-security networks. Things go awry when they’re charged with disrupting Iran’s nuclear program by co-opting an Iranian drone and accidentally discover a secret NSA program called Typhon and the disappearance of 13 prominent theorists. The “Zeroes” find themselves pawns in a conflict among their government captors, a renegade hacker called The Widow of Zheng, and Typhon, a sentient artificial intelligence which is growing in power and influence with every passing minute. “Because they have to be willing to accept us,” it says. “Because sometimes the child has to touch the hot stove to learn why he shouldn’t do it again. Because in chaos, there is opportunity.” This is 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.

An action-packed yet cerebral thriller that lives in that murky nexus between today and the future.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-235155-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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