A fast-paced, contemporary take on The Monkey Wrench Gang, blowing up digital infrastructure instead of dams.

VERSION ZERO

A trio of disgruntled coders, a reclusive genius, and a teenager attempt to take down the internet—the whole damned thing.

For his first adult novel, YA superstar Yoon draws on his decades in the tech industry to envision a takedown of the digital world so complete that paper comes back into fashion. The book’s main protagonist is Max Portillo, a Salvadoran American programmer for Wren, the world’s all-encompassing social media platform. Cal Peers, the company's CEO, invites Max to contribute to the Soul Project, an unabashedly evil plan to hoover up personal data that would guarantee higher market penetration. Max is horrified. Together with his best friend, Akiko Hosokawa, and her boyfriend, Shane Satow, Max envisions a global hack he dubs Version Zero, using anonymous personae to put a permanent dent in the web’s usability. “We broke it to fix it,” the anonymous hackers explain. Yoon never fully clarifies his version of the world, but there are breadcrumbs to follow—references to a Handmaid’s Tale–like social hierarchy that includes “whitemen” and “browns” and targets that include the world’s most influential companies, proxies for Facebook, Uber, Reddit, Amazon, and Apple. The mischief rises to another level when the three friends are approached by Pilot Markham, a wildly successful and equally withdrawn entrepreneur who believes the internet has left us emotionally bankrupt and who wants to help take their scheme to the next level with the help of his teenage neighbor, Brayden Turnipseed. Markham’s thirst for revenge was largely caused by his daughter’s untimely death by trolls, but he’s certainly as unhinged as his enemies. Digitally agile readers will recognize plenty of the ills of our time, and some will empathize with the counterintuitive way our heroes interpret the modern adage “Move fast and break things.”

A fast-paced, contemporary take on The Monkey Wrench Gang, blowing up digital infrastructure instead of dams.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-19035-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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