Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Michael F. Stewart: Assured Destruction: Review

 Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.
Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They're stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose their livelihood.
When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.

Hauntingly Appealing. That's how I would describe this book. And wow. Wow, wow, wow. (And to imagine that I went into the book expecting it to be a three-star book) I finished this at 2 am. On a school night. I must have looked hung over at school the next day, but it was worth it. Now back to the book. First of all, the plot line is unique and original. I've never quite read something like this, and I loved it. The book follows sixteen-year-old Jan, a skilled computer...programmer. I myself have always loved the idea of being able to program - and getting good at it - and I've promised myself that as soon as I get some free time I'll learn. I have yet to have enough free time. Jan works at her mother's shop, which recycles old technology - laptops tablets, computers, TVs. The hardware is recycled, and customers have the choice of either recycling the hard drive as well, or shredding it (for an extra fee). And Jan has a helpless...addiction. Sometimes, she pockets those hard drives and plugs them into one of the computers to be recycled, and out of the data on the hard drive, creates an online identity. Files, with everything from photos to day entries, are stored on these hard drives. These identities that she creates are based on the real person, and on the "clues" he/she leaves behind in the hard drive. And then, one day, she takes a hard drive that brings everything back down on her. She's one of the most skilled hackers, but there's somebody out there even better. And they're determined to bring her down. By targeting the real people her online identities are based on.

I love the fact that this book is centralized around the social media devices of today. Each character has a twitter and a Facebook and a blog, which will actually exist as soon as the book's officially published. And I'm planning on following every one of then on twitter. I loved how the author took the idea of hackers and internet pirating to a whole new level, because the more we advance technologically, the easier it becomes for skilled hackers to do things that would be impossible to trace. Jan's character was built beautifully. When she felt indecisive, I felt indecisive. When she was worried that they were on to what she was doing, I broke out in cold sweat. I've always looked at hackers in bad light, but now I feel more like 1, 2, 3, Vive Hackers! OK, well, not exactly, but just like books from the point of view of the 'bad guy' get you to sympathize for him, this made me feel bad for Jan.

There were few minor things I didn't like. The relationships between Jan and some characters (not all, though) felt a bit too rushed. Also, the book ends on a really happy note. Like, everything's perfect and will be perfect and will stay perfect. Everything worked out. Everybody loves superman and the evil villain is all locked up - it's all too perfect for me. And while I really think I'm the only one out there who thinks so, but I enjoy semi-cliffhangers*. Especially since this will be a series. But otherwise, I really really really really {insert multiple synonyms for really and extremely really here} recommend you read this.

As for the title, I loved how cliche it was, because the destruction of the hard drives is supposedly assured yet look what happened. And the cover is beautiful. The colors, admittedly, are not my favorite, too neon-y, but I could spend hours studying that photo.

Overall, this is a great book that I'd definitely recommend (I know I'm repeating, but that way it gets drilled into your conscience), and if I were a publishing company, I would have published this. Since it's already published by a publishing company - Non Sequitur Press - I'd try to offer a good enough price and buy the movie film rights, if I were a film maker. Actually, I'd buy the film rights then go to film school. But I don't have that kind of money, sadly. Mark my words, though - this guy is one fantastic author, and probably going to be the next big thing. So read the book, like, right now.

*Also, I enjoy mega-cliffhangers as well. The kind that make you want to strangle the author then buy them a cup of coffee and get on their good side. So maybe they'll consider you as a beta reader. As long as the next book is coming soon enough.

After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults. (See, cool authors with cool bios write cool books)