Zeroes by Chuck Wendig (book review).

‘Zeroes’ tell the story of a mismatched group of five hackers, crackers and con-artists. Rather than do hard time for their crimes, they are selected by a shadowy government scheme called Typhon. Taken by the FBI to an isolated country lodge, the five begin to work as ‘white-hat’ sort of good guys. Soon, the group find hints and whispers that Typhon may be up to something more sinister. The search though the cyberverse for answers spills over into a real life running battle.


Has there ever been a more misunderstood and misrepresented group than computer hackers? Often shown as evil geniuses launching nuclear missiles or stealing government secrets, the reality is at once more mundane and more sinister. It must be hard to describe technology when the field is continuously changing, but Wendig does an admirable job. Our world today is one where terrorist groups have blogs and recruit on social media and Government whistle-blowers are a fact of life. This is the world of the Zeroes. The name is a nice play on the binary state of either being someone or being a nobody.

Zeroes explores various levels of cybercrime. Chance is a social media warrior and hi-jacks the Facebook of high school rapists and tries to deal rough justice. DeAndre clones credit cards and is good at it. Aleena uses her computer skills to raise consciousness about the victims of war. Reagan is the ultimate internet troll. Wade Earthman is an old-school hacker and activist, whose mistrust of the government makes him live off-grid in the desert.

Each character is well-written and fully formed. I am not an expert in cybercrime but Wendig’s descriptions of the day-to-day activity of the Zeroes’ crimes is authentic in feel. The FBI talent scout, Agent Copper, likewise feels convincing. His lack of enthusiasm for shepherding a group of dodgy digital criminals is well-written.

The middle act of the story tells of the day to day life in the Lodge. The Zeroes are given a list of organisations both private and governmental to hack with a specific set of objectives. The Zeroes use this time to research the Lodge itself and the hidden protocols by which they were selected. This leads to uncovering information which suggests a layer of intrigue and conspiracy.

This in turn leads to the final act of the story where the Zeroes are in a frantic dash for their lives. This act could only have taken place in the US with its survivalist communities and anti-government conspiracy theorists. The action is well written and paced.

Overall, Chuck Wendig does a masterful job of presenting a sophisticated and labyrinthine tale. The technology is well researched and realistic. The characters are complex and layered.

This is an excellent book which thriller fans and SF fans will love. It pulls off the mastery proficient trick of keeping the reader guessing till the end.

Andy Bollan

July 2016

(pub: HarperCollins, 2015. 432 page hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-06235-155-5)

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