Tag Archives: Chuck Wendig

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?


There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.


There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015


A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer


Book Reviews











Book Review: “Zer0es” by Chuck Wendig

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

This book is a thriller built on contemporary technology: surveillance, cyber war, drones, hackers of many stripes; all playing serious and deadly over the vast data flows of global digital networks. Much of the story is just a little beyond things that have already happened—hacking attacks, government surveillance, drone strikes.

On this canvas Wendig paints a fairly conventional plot about a ’gang of misfits’, throw together into a desperate struggle with a basically super human adversary. The fate of humanity seems to be in the balance, and only these kids can save the day. And so on.

The misfits are a Hollywood cast of absurdly clever hackers, who, despite the real life demographics of hackers, include women, people of color, and an old guy, Their motivations are also obscure and not especially believable. A female internet troll who harasses rape victims? Really? Maybe this is how hackers imagine the hacker community, I supposed, but it isn’t realistic.

The plot, on the other hand, is just flat out silly. Without giving away details (though you’ll guess most of it easily from the very beginning), the entire idea is not only unbelievable, it doesn’t even make sense. It’s not enough to imagine insane plots inside secrete government agencies, they are also incompetent insane plots supposedly hidden within the paranoid hidden world of secret agencies—the least likely place to hide a conspiracy, in my view.

And Wendig appears to believe the hacker lore that government agents are brutal knuckle draggers who know nothing about computers or anything else.  If you believe that, then you are in for a shock if you are crazy enough to go up against them.

Wendig seems to be reasonably familiar with the basics of hacking, though it looks to me like he is working from sources not from personal practice. (The author bio indicates he played around with hacking a long time ago.)

If Wendig knows what he’s is talking about on the topic hacking, the same cannot be said for his notions about computer-brain-interfaces, which are not only not real, they are preposterous. No, the brain is not a computer, and it isn’t sensible to talk about a computer taking over and “controlling” a human “mind” and body. It is also nonsense to talk about a disembodied human personality uploaded to a computer, at least not the way he portrays it.

He also stretches the bounds of credibility with computers abilities to seize remote control of everything. Yes, everything is networked, and yes this is a security hazard. But it is one thing to be able to monitor every darn thing, and another to imagine that an AI could, for example, take over and drive your car, or hack your microwave to explode.

I would note that, aside from the absurd scale of his fictional computers (real time monitoring everything on every network–c’mon), he apparently does not believe in the speed of light, and asks us to imagine infinite bandwidth with zero latency.  Why not add time travel and teleportation, while you are at it?

I understand that we are supposed to suspend disbelief in the interests of the story. But that is difficult to do if the story is set in a near future, so recognizable from contemporary headlines. This story would have been easier to read if it were set in a completely imaginary place and time.

For me, there really isn’t enough story here, because the fundamentals are so idiotic. I don’t buy the technological “what if”, and I don’t buy the personalities and interaction of the people. And there are far too many “black helicopters” here to really interest me.

I have to worry that some of the paranoid fantasies in this book will mislead people about the true scale and scope of the really cyber challenges we face. You certainly should be worried about the Internet of Things, but not because they will let hackers turn you into a zombie. Please. Spare us that junk.


  1. Chuck Wendig, Zer0es, New York, HarperColins, 2015.


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