Book Review: #zombie (Zombie Botnet), Al K. Line (2014)

March 3rd, 2014 12:19 pm by Kelly Garbato

The Twittering Dead

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaway program.)

two out of five stars

“Ven hit enter and Armageddon was unleashed.”

Ven – short for ven.GEANCE, her online hacker tag; Sarah to the tax collector – just wanted to make an obscene amount of cash. And, perhaps more importantly, build the best botnet the world had ever seen. And she did. Build a virtually indestructible bot, that is. The cash? Well, as it turns out, cash is less than useless in the zombie apocalypse.

After a decade plus spent carefully nurturing and cultivating her notorious zombie bot, Ven was finally ready for the end game. Using stolen bits of psychological research, she created a virus loaded with “data packets” of information – images, text, and videos, all transmitted from device to user quickly enough to elude conscious awareness – designed to manipulate internet users into opening a Bitcoin account…which Ven would then hijack and drain of funds. (Bitcoin? Really?) The plan was flawless, or so she though. Then she hit enter and accidentally unleashed Armageddon.

As you might have already guessed, those exposed to Ven’s subliminal mind manipulation didn’t open Bitcoin accounts. Instead, they either became hopelessly locked onto their machines, unable to look away from the devolving gibberish that flashed across the screen (Zombies love to tweet and take selfies, dontchaknow.), while those who failed to maintain steady eye contact went on a murderous rampage. They became zombies of a sort, although it remains a matter of some debate whether they died and were resurrected, or are still alive (and thus potentially curable). Either way, they want brains. In the absence of such, any other body part will do.

Ven’s husband Paul is one of the first victims of her zombie bot; while checking Twitter on his way up the landing, he’s infected with the virus, goes into anaphylactic shock, and then attempts to devour his wife and newborn son. Luckily, she and her hacker friend Kyle are able to dispatch of Zombie Paul using his own decorative samurai sword – right though the eyeball.

The rest of the story sees Ven, Kyle, three-month-old Tomas, and six-year-old adopted Black Lab Boscoe (Bos Bos) fleeing their neighborhood in the UK for the safety of her sister Cassie’s commune in North Wales. All the while, Ven struggles with her unwitting role in ending the world. Convinced that she can’t be solely to blame – after all, she viewed the same data as everyone else during the testing stage, with no ill results – she vows to find the person responsible. By story’s end this hasn’t happened, but the author’s note suggests that this is the first installment in a series.

#zombie is a different kind of zombie story, relating the infection to social media rather than a biological virus or environmental pollutant. Line has a rather cheeky sense of humor, and the blood and gore in the early zombie scenes is rather fun. I also adore Bos Bos, and appreciate that the author imparted a nonhuman with his own personality and voice. And – spoiler alert – the dog doesn’t get it. (I hate it when the dog dies. The dog ALWAYS dies!)

While the story has potential, the writing could stand to be tightened up a bit. The author tends to rehash the same points ad naseum, resulting in quite a few redundancies. For example, Line includes a lengthy “aside” explaining to the reader the construction of the internet, and why its web-like nature makes it so difficult to shut down. Later on the characters discuss this same material a second time. Likewise, the book (especially the opening chapters) is filled with descriptions of how awesome Ven and her unstoppable bot are. Show, don’t tell!

If I hadn’t been obligated to review this book, I probably would have bailed 30% in; it just didn’t hold my interest, and there are plenty of other books in my pile that I’m itching to get to. As it was, I skimmed over a number of passages in the second half of the book. Line has an interesting concept here, but way too many words. I’d love to see this as a novella or short story. 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 on Amazon.

In conclusion: “Well, fuck Twitter, that was no real loss. It would be a shame to lose Instagram though.”

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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