Zer0es by Chuck Wendig
Imagine if the Avengers weren’t superheroes, but hackers. That’s just what you get with Zer0es, a high intensity, freaked out, sci fi thriller. Five disparate techno-wizards are selected, each with a unique skill set, rounded up by “Mr. Government,” and given an ultimatum to either work as pawns or go to big-boy jail. They take the deal, of course, impelled as much by self-interest as by curiosity. After being dragged into the middle of the forest and posted up in a high security, if not swanky, hacker camp, our heroes begin to unravel a mystery one manic scene at a time.
You’re not getting any surprises from Zer0es. There’s a recognizable formula at play, and you can expect the big-ticket revelations to arrive on cue. But you want to know what happens next, don’t you? That’s what author Chuck Wendig is banking on as he acts as charmer to your serpent. Zer0es is the kind of book that eases you along with fun characters and constant movement, the slow moments and dips skillfully placed and never excessive. Here, accessibility is of foremost importance and Wendig is not interested in wowing you with technical know-how or high concept. Strap in and let the story suck you under its torrents.
Zer0es is a bit like an 80s action flick – thrillingly campy, endearingly sappy, with modern terms and tech. The dialogue especially is like road trip food – you’d be hard pressed to call it good, but damned if you aren’t enjoying it. Everyone’s got a quip loaded into the chamber and banter is in no short supply. The book is written like it expects to be filmed and is replete with both gruesome and magnificent imagery – everything from scenic Montana to chilled server rooms with dangling, emaciated bodies. Hopefully the upcoming installments of this series up the grossness ante.
As our hackers tempt fateful curiosity, they unearth terrible truths and unspeakable monsters. There is a fair amount of get-to-know-you origin-story plotting, but this is perhaps a necessary caltrop which staggers an otherwise agile storyline. Another feature worth questioning is the abundant modernity – references to television shows currently popular, Internet culture terms currently employed, and memes which may be grasped by those who saw the horrible inception of Internet sharing, terrible things which I will spare you the mention of here. The question that lingers is whether these references will serve as tidy markers in an otherwise tumultuous sea of trends, or if they will date the book in short order.
With the first adventure tucked away and glimpses of the next in the headlights, there is really only one significant complaint. Wendig has got to break away from convention and well-worn structure if he’s going to keep the what’s next? allure of the Zer0es series. He knows how to keep his readers from being bored, but this isn’t quite the same as enticing them to read more. The next book that will determine how deep this rabbit hole goes. There is potential for balls to the wall adventure with sass-mouths, weirdos, cyborgs, lunatics and whatever other gamut of misfits Wendig can invent.