In Boush’s debut thriller, a North Korean cyberattack cripples America’s infrastructure, sparking chaos and leaving the country vulnerable to a military invasion.
Brendan Chogan first senses trouble afoot during his job interview for a security-guard position at a Portland, Oregon, robotics company. A computer virus is apparently affecting the building, which then loses internet access. A report comes in by phone that the internet is down across the country. It’s merely the beginning of a North Korean strike against U.S. systems, and soon citizens nationwide lose their cellular service and electricity. Panic ensues, and Brendan realizes that he, his wife, Vailea, and their 8-year-old twin daughters may not be safe. Meanwhile, hacker Xandra Strandlien’s boss at U.S. Cyber Command sends her to Oregon. Intelligence on Chinese-Russian joint military exercises has led to a fear of a post-cyberattack armed invasion, and the Oregon area, which has no military bases nearby, is a potential target. As Brendan and Vailea struggle to secure their home and stockpile food and water, they encounter allies, including Xandra and a couple of U.S. Navy fighter pilots who lost contact with their supercarrier. When an invasion indeed materializes, this small group works together on a mission to upload malware to the enemies’ servers. Despite the fact that the attack is nationwide, Boush concentrates on the characters in Oregon, who later include vacationing campers from Los Angeles. It’s a wise choice, as the story mixes smaller battles (such as characters fending off would-be intruders at the Chogan house) with large-scale ones; Xandra’s plan, for example, entails jumping from a low-flying plane into a river. The author also richly details the cyberattack’s chaotic aftermath; for instance, Vailea gets a workout in a grocery store that’s besieged by a horde of frenzied shoppers: “She gasped for breath, muscles straining like treading water.” Interestingly, the most striking character is a relatively minor one: Sierra Eigelb, a random survivor who first appears about halfway through the novel. Her newfound affinity for killing turns her into a terrifying villain. The story’s swift pace leads to a surprisingly thorough wrap-up.
A tightly plotted tale with characters that could energize a planned series.