Review: The Adversary (A Chris Bruen novel) by Reece Hirsch

I got a complimentary e-copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review – thank you very much! That fact didn’t influence my opinion in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Former DOJ cybercrimes prosecutor Chris Bruen walks into a dark apartment in Amsterdam to confront a hacker known as Black Vector. The hacker has stolen the source code for the world’s most ubiquitous operating system, which powers everything from personal computers to the NSA’s data centers. This should have been a routine assignment for Bruen, but instead of obtaining a confession, Bruen finds the hacker’s dead body and uncovers a hidden flash drive that contains the code for a remarkably sophisticated computer virus known as Lurker.

Upon his return home to San Francisco, Bruen finds himself the target of a shadowy group of hackers who plan on unleashing Lurker, which will bring a major US city to its knees in seven days. Bruen doesn’t know why he’s the target, but the answers seem to lie somewhere in his troubled past. Suddenly, Bruen is framed as the planner of the cyberattack, making him the top suspect in an international manhunt. Bruen must stay ahead of the FBI and CIA in a race across Europe while he tries to decode the virus, find the hackers, and clear his name. With the lives of tens of thousands of people hanging in the balance, and his own life about to be destroyed, Bruen must go beyond the brink to stop the hackers.

What I liked:

The topic interested me – cyberterrorism and cyberattacks are definitely waiting for us in real world so I wanted to find out more, preferably while being entertained by a thrilling prose. Edutainment rocks my socks :p.

I admit the descriptions of the mayhem one computer virus can create were the best. At first also  Chris Bruen sounded like a nice, original guy – a cancer patient in remission and a former DOJ employee. It also seemed that Zoey Doucet would be a more active character than just a pretty sidekick who happened to know a thing or two about viruses and coding and was willing to warm Chris’s bed. Alas, no such luck.

What I didn’t like:

I really wanted to like this novel better but the writing style was sometimes difficult to swallow. One of the reasons  was the fact that the text was peppered with infodumps like a beauty I quote below:

„Yoshitake frowned.

“I’ve heard of him.”

“What do you know?”

“Not much, just that he controls a huge botnet.”

A botnet is a network of computers that are all infected with, and controlled by, a virus—the bot. A botnet could be used to launch massive volumes of email, either as a delivery system for spam in a phishing scheme or to crash a website through a distributed denial-of-service attack.”

Such dialogue interruptions make me mad because:

  •  they seriously disrupt the narration flow,
  •  they are completely out of place,
  •  they offend my intelligence.

The whole scene is set at a hacker conference in NYC and it is clear that all characters involved know pretty much everything there is to know about botnets so I am asking you – why? What have I done to deserve that? Why did you go all Dan Brown on me? If you felt that term or any other term might cause problems to your readers it could have been explained  in a glossary or in a footnote. As it was written, it made me feel like a moronic maid who, while cleaning, stumbled upon a very enlightened company of her betters, talking completely over her head about difficult cyber…thingies. After a while one altruistic soul, seeing her lost, dim face, decided to throw a scrap of explanation at her. “Thank’ya, mister, how very generous of ya, mister, I don’t deserve it, mister, but now I’ll return to me cleaning so much wiser, mister *shuffle, shuffle, sniff, sniff*”. In other words  I hate infodumps.

Apart from that some sections describing different cities Chris and Zoey were visiting read as if they were copied and pasted straight from a cheap guide. What’s more, if in Barcelona they had to see Sagrada Familia and if in Paris they had to fall in love – those clichés gave the whole novel cheesy undertones as if the author tried hard to suit the tastes of the widest audience possible and  their very limited imagination  concerning those exotic, European cities *turning up her distinctly European nose*.

It also didn’t help that I guessed the identities of the main baddies right after the middle point (one of them even a bit earlier) and the main lead, Chris Bruen, had practically no sense of humour. Oh well.

Final verdict:

I wish Chris Bruen all the best but I am still waiting for a good thriller about cyberterrorism – no offence.

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8 Responses to Review: The Adversary (A Chris Bruen novel) by Reece Hirsch

  1. xaurianx says:

    Good review, thank you! Didn’t Tom Clancy write some cyber stuff? I used to read that, many years ago, of course well outdated now. And to be honest, this blurb reminds me a bit of one of the Die Hard movies with Bruce Willis (dreamy sigh).

  2. heidenkind says:

    Uhg. That excerpt is all I need to know I don’t want to read this book.

  3. rameau says:

    The only way you’d get me to read about cyberterrorism is if one of the legitimate whitehats turned into a fiction writer and was actually good at it. Probability of such thing happening is extremely low.

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