The Silence of Six
Author: EC Myers
Publisher: Adaptive Books
DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often reward aplenty!
I was really impressed with this novel from the start and found myself quickly drawn-in and really wanting to swipe the screens. It’s an object lesson in how to write a story which pulls people in and keeps 'em hooked. It has some ups and downs, but overall, I rate it a very worthy read.
Maxwell is a high-school student who attends a presidential debate which is being held at his school. As it's winding up, at the end of question-time, someone hacks into the screen being used on stage; a young person wearing a mask appears, and asks the two presidential candidates, "What is the silence of six and what are you going to do about it?" before shooting himself. Max is acutely disturbed as he sees that this is his hacker friend Evan. Max has been out of hacking for a year or so, but Evan never left, and he has some secrets of which Max is unaware. As the students are filing out of the auditorium, their laptops, pads and phones are confiscated 'for reasons of national security'.
Max suddenly realizes that there's more going on here than simply a joke hack or a suicide. He returns to his hacker roots, logging into a secret forum which he hasn’t accessed for a year. The names he sees are familiar, but they're suspicious of him. One of them - Doublethink - opens a private side-channel and requests a meeting in person. Max decides it’s time for a face-to-face, but already there are dark SUVs following him, so he decides to go on the run.
This novel is really well-written. It has intrigue and danger, it has smart computer talk, and it sounds realistic from the off. Doublethink is particularly intriguing, but I can't tell you any more without ruining the surprises the author has in store. Max has some narrow escapes, makes new friends, meets fascinating and dangerous characters, all the while circling around the clues and hints that Evan has evidently left for him. And also Max carries the guilty burden of the fact that Evan had reached out to him several times recently and Max had been too busy, preoccupied or otherwise distracted to connect with him again.
There were some weaknesses in the story. The main one is one we always find in this kind of story: there are points where Max has enough information at his disposal that he could have gone online with it, thereby at least taking some of the pressure off himself. There's no good reason offered to explain why he doesn’t do this. Later an explanation is offered, but I'm not convinced that it was a good one! Also at one point Max says "…looking for whomever was using the computer…" No one speaks like that. Writers write like that, and it’s like an itch when you don’t use the correct grammatical form, but it’s entirely wrong to have people speak like that when almost no-one - especially not kids - actually does.
So, not perfect, but a short, fast, and very entertaining read which I recommend.