Cybersecurity expert Kevin Albright is living a shadow life. After foiling a potentially catastrophic plot to detonate a 1000-mile oil pipeline and seeing his family life torn to shreds, Albright is forced to flee his country, leaving behind his identity, his friends, and a trail of international criminals hell-bent on killing the man who ruined their plans.
But Josh Burke – Kevin’s new alias – cannot leave his past life behind. Haunted by the memories of the destruction of his family and obsessed with bringing the perpetrators to justice, Burke uses his new job as a technician at a small town internet service provider to search the web for clues – only to find himself embroiled in yet another plot to hack and attack critical infrastructure around the world.
The third book in Harold Lea Brown’s Deadly Invisible Enemy series, Evil Resurrection is a thrilling glimpse into the hidden realm of dark web hackers and the government agencies involved in bringing them to justice. The majority of the story is seen through the eyes of two main characters – amateur spy Kevin Albright and former gangster Big D, and it also brings a whole ensemble of players into the digital chess game unfolding in real-time.
The plot is an intricate and twisting web, that will have you flicking back to previous chapters, in an attempt to join the dots as the layered network of characters and events grows larger and larger. Although the concepts involved are highly technical, the reader is never left behind; the complexities of computer hacking are explained clearly without being patronizing. While this does leave some of the ‘explanation’ dialogue feeling a tad clunky, with conversations between the characters slightly forced in to explain some of the more tricky parts of computer hacking, it is also a fascinating insight into the ever expanding invisible world that oversees more and more of our daily lives.
The story moves at lighting pace, with short easy to digest chapters jumping from location to location and character to character. A slight criticism is that this constant fast pace somewhat takes away from the climactic ending – when all the strands of the story begin to come together, there’s no space left to move the suspense and drama up a notch for the climax.
Evil Resurrection is a highly enjoyable read with twists and turns aplenty. The characters are real and relatable and will leave you wishing you had the lightning fingers of a ‘white hat’ computer hacker – or even the lavish life of a cigar-smoking, cognac-sipping crime lord. As soon as the last page is turned you will be eagerly looking toward the next instalment in the Deadly Invisible Enemies series.
Pages: 453 | ASIN: B072WBYL7Y
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The inventor of the world’s first teleportation device has been savagely murdered, and Global Inspector Burt Campbell is tasked to uncover who killed the infamous scientist.
As he delves deeper into the case, strange things begin to happen. Spirits seem to be controlling deadly objects to viciously attack him, and according to the teleporter computer, the spirits are taking orders straight from the inventor’s ghost.
The only person with answers is the inventor’s beautiful assistant, Penelope Preston… but she has secrets of her own.
Sleep State Interrupt follows Waylee as she fights against big media’s omnipresent influence on society. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
I’ve always been worried about the concentration of media and the decline of journalism, and the threats those trends pose to independent, critical thought and democracy. I’ve also been worried by the ever-increasing power of governments and corporations to record and manipulate every facet of our lives. But things could get worse—much worse.
Imagine an Internet where you could only access sites affiliated with Verizon, Comcast, or AT&T. Imagine that you could only watch Verizon-owned shows or movies, and this choice was limited to those deemed most profitable. Imagine if there was only one source of news, and that “news” was sophisticated propaganda. Imagine political opinions having to be approved by a corporate censor board.
This is what could happen now that the Federal Communications Commission, headed by a former Verizon lawyer, has overturned net neutrality. Instead of all data being transmitted equally, Internet service providers can act as gatekeepers, intentionally favoring some websites and content over others.
Sleep State Interrupt explores a possible outcome of these trends. In the book, a huge corporation (MediaCorp) works with governments to upgrade the Internet with ultra-fast fiber optic lines, more efficient switching, and better security. In the process, MediaCorp spreads money to the right people, and gains control of the Internet backbone. They use that to prioritize their own data flows or those companies that pay them a premium. Their stock goes through the roof, they crush or buy out their competitors, and MediaCorp gains control of nearly all information. Politicians do their bidding if they want to win elections. Most people are kept in the dark or misled. Everything they do is recorded and analyzed. MediaCorp also creates an addictive virtual reality called BetterWorld, which becomes so popular, it overtakes the physical economy.
Certainly, some would fight such a concentration and abuse of power. In Sleep State Interrupt, the heroes are marginalized people with no official influence. But based on my observations of activists, anyone with enough determination and skill can confront powerful entrenched interests and make a difference. If there’s an optimistic side to this novel, it’s that anyone can be a hero and anyone can impact the world.
Waylee is a unique and well-developed character. What were some themes behind her character motivations?
In the book, Baltimore journalist Waylee Freid decides to challenge the threat posed by MediaCorp. She’s frustrated because she can’t reach an audience, nor can anyone else who challenges the status quo. She’s an idealist who believes in freedom of information and yearns for a world where everyone has a meaningful life and access to basic necessities. On a personal level, Waylee bears a grudge against MediaCorp for buying out her paper, firing her, and putting her in the hospital (events that occur in the opening chapter). She attempts to end MediaCorp’s monopoly by exposing their machinations to the world and bringing down their corrupt political supporters (especially President Rand).
Waylee is outgoing and charismatic, and has a large circle of friends and acquaintances. She is extremely creative and resourceful, with a quick wit. But she seethes with inner anger, which arose from a violent childhood, poverty, and a hatred of bullies. She was sixteen, and her sister only seven, when they fled Philadelphia and the drunken fists of her stepfather and mother. Baltimore was as far as the contents of her mother’s purse could take them.
Waylee also struggles with cyclothymia (a type of bipolar disorder), but can’t afford medicine (which doesn’t help anyway) or therapy, especially after she loses her job. She embraces her hypomanic phase, which increases her creativity and energy. But when depressed, she fears her life is pointless and the world is hopeless. Her condition worsens under the stress of trying to complete her mission while being relentlessly pursued by the authorities.
Genre literature rarely features protagonists with mental illnesses. Yet such conditions are fairly common (2-7% of people in the U.S. have bipolar disorder). They don’t detract from a person’s worth.
I enjoyed the social commentary that popped up throughout this novel. What were some ideals that you felt drove the novel’s development?
The protagonists each have their own set of ideals, although there are overlaps. All believe in a free and open Internet, which was its creators’ original intent. Individualism is also a common hacker ethos. Pel, Charles, and Dingo are strong individualists (although their personalities differ quite a bit).
Waylee wants a free society that is governed democratically and collaboratively, and opposes narrow concentrations of power and wealth. “There’s plenty of money and resources to solve the world’s problems,” she says in the book. “But the handful of people who control most of the world’s wealth and power live in their own stratosphere and want to keep it that way… MediaCorp is their mouthpiece, manufacturing fake realities and keeping people distracted and divided.”
Shakti believes that everyone should have equal freedom from restraint (limited only by respect for the rights of others) and everyone should have as nearly as possible equal access to basic resources, thus ensuring equal (or near-equal) freedom to act. She also believes that humanity is a part of nature, and must re-learn this interconnection in order to survive.
M’patanishi (“M-pat”) is a proponent of Ujamaa (community-scale African socialism) and has brought this concept to Baltimore. Well-paying jobs are few, and government services have all but disappeared. But people can work collectively within their neighborhood to meet each others’ basic needs (food, medicine, security, etc.)
This is book one in the BetterWorld trilogy. Where does book two pick up the story?
In Wrath of Leviathan, the second book of the BetterWorld trilogy, Waylee faces life in prison for daring to expose MediaCorp’s schemes to control the world. Exiled in São Paulo, her sister Kiyoko and their hacker friends continue the fight, seeking to end the conglomerate’s stranglehold on virtual reality, information, and politics. But MediaCorp and their government allies may quash the rebellion before it takes off. And unknown to Kiyoko and her friends, a team of ruthless mercenaries is after them, and is closing in fast. The Wrath of Leviathan (See Sharp Press; ISBN 978-1947071018) is available at most online book outlets.
In Sleep State Interrupt, a giant media corporation has taken over the Internet, created an addictive virtual reality called BetterWorld, and controls nearly all information. Politicians do their bidding and a brainwashed humanity serves a privileged few. Waylee Freid, an unemployed Baltimore journalist with ever-worsening bipolar disorder, is the only hope for a brighter future. She and her countercultural friends bust a notorious teenage hacker out of jail and sneak into a closed presidential fundraiser at the Smithsonian castle, where they hope to record incriminating admissions that will wake up the world. Hunted by Homeland Security, Waylee and her friends must reach a sufficient audience by broadcasting their video during the Super Bowl. But to do so, they’ll have to break into one of the most secure facilities ever built.
Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is a fascinating novel that finds itself straddling a variety of themes, writing styles, and motifs. In this novel, one can witness the conjunction of several major literary genres. From bleak dystopian imagery and post-apocalyptic ruin to deeply intense mystery and intrigue, Extinction 6 provides enough twists and turns to keep any reader engaged. Taking place in the year 2066, the reader is introduced to a world mostly underwater. Following a sharp rise in global temperatures by an average of 8 degrees Celsius, sea levels drastically increased and major settlements like San Francisco were submerged. In conjunction, animals and plants have completely vanished. Beyond this, the world appears to be plagued by war and corporate espionage. Battles for oil fields and small scraps of territory appear to occur daily, while depressing news bulletins ring out, highlighting decreases in rations or celebrating the smallest of military victories. In this dystopian future, greenhouse gases continue to be pumped at alarming rates, and it becomes clear to some that the world is facing its sixth, and potentially last, extinction crises.
Hosein Kouros-Mehr expertly uses this setting to deliver a story that is captivating and vividly written. There is a profound amount of world building conducted in this novel and the story’s framing gives readers a holistic experience at what life in this dreary world would look like. Through the use of multiple perspectives and point of views, Hosein Kouros-Mehr provides readers with an inside and personal look at the various dimensions that take place in this world. In some chapters, readers will become intimate with a forlorn lover embroiled in major geopolitical developments. Other sections masterfully showcase the experiences of an aggressive and cunning CEO. These different perspectives are woven in a way that provides keen connections and startling insights.
The writing itself is suspenseful and tense. The diction wastes no time in putting the reader through long segments of empty description and word padding. Every sentence is deliberate and has a definite sense of immediacy. Every word counts in a world that is slowly ticking towards oblivion. This is aided by Hosein Kouros-Mehr’s wonderful sense of pacing. While the writing is forward facing, it still gives readers the time to engross themselves in the world. Details about the major corporations and the nations that inhabit this world are peppered in where needed and helps to provide depth to the world. Many of these elements come into play throughout the course of the novel, and the pace in which these details become relevant greatly benefits Kouros-Mehr’s deliberate writing style. If there is any issue in the way in which Hosein Kouros-Mehr presents his work, it is the fact that the large cast of characters can lead to some confusion. This is somewhat alleviated by the clear characterization and literary role each character plays, and as a whole, this critique does not detract from the novel.
Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is an incredibly tense story about what our future could easily look like.
Pages: 248 | ASIN: B07HB5Q24P
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