Zer0es by Chuck Wendig
August 18, 2015
It feels like every day there is another headline about hackers breaking into some database: Target, the IRS, and Ashley Madison, to name a few. Technology has become so intertwined with our everyday lives, that eventually we will all be affected by one of these hacks. The news usually covers the victims of the data breaches, but rarely is a word spoken or written about the people behind the computers that are taking your precious banking information.
Enter Chuck Wendig’s latest novel, ZER0ES. This techno-thriller goes behind the computer monitor and gives us the human faces to the computer chaos. In the book, the US government is “recruiting” individual hackers for a super top-secret program. Not even the top brass truly understand the program. The recruitment consists of “We know what you’re doing from the privacy of your home computer. If you don’t want to be charged with a crime and go to jail for a long time, you’ll work with us on our top-secret thing for the next year.”
ZER0ES follows the latest 5 recruits who join the program. They’re kind of like a modern day A-Team, except that they are working for the government instead of hiding from it and Wendig’s team doesn’t have Mr. T. Otherwise this is just like the A-Team. There’s the woman helping her family in the Middle East overthrow the government, an online troll, the old-school cipherpunk, and the black-hat hacker. And there’s the anonymous-style hacker, Chance, who knows just enough about computers to get him noticed by the government, but doesn’t really know what he’s doing. The others have to explain to him (and help the reader understand) exactly what is happening. These explanations ensure that the book doesn’t get too bogged down in technical jargon and that the reader (and Chance) doesn’t get left behind.
As the team goes through their initial hacking tests, they slowly begin to figure out exactly what is happening. The super top-secret government program is not exactly in the best interest of the citizens. It’s a front for the creation of an artificial intelligence code name Typhon. If the code can gain access to every computer in the world…well…let’s say it won’t end well. Wendig’s A-Team embarks on a cross-country adventure to try to stop Typhon. And this journey must be made entirely off the grid, which isn’t easy considering everything, I mean everything, has some kind of computer in it.
It’s been my experience that when you start to read a book written by Chuck Wendig, you’re going to get a face-paced, in your face story. ZER0ES is no exception to this. Here he quickly lays out why the hackers are being sought out by the government. Then he lets everything about Typhon slowly unravel and you can’t help but continue turning the pages to learn more about the AI code and what is really going on with it. The suspense about Typhon makes the book an excellent government conspiracy theory thriller.
This Cyber A-Team may not have a cool van or a team member named Face, but you’ll want to tune in to find out what they’re going to do next.