“What is the silence of six, and what are you going to do about it?”
After hacking into the live-streaming Presidential debate at Granville High, and asking the candidates to answer the question, an anonymous member of hacker group Dramatis Personai kills himself on screen. Except he isn’t anonymous. Former hacker Max Stein recognizes him: 17 year old Evan Baxter, a genius hacker, code name ST0P, and Max’s best friend. And now dead.
Just moments before the hack, Max received an encrypted text from Evan, with an apology, a plea for help, and a warning. Post-hack, the government shut down the school’s wifi, confiscates the students’ technology, and sends them on their way. And all of a sudden Max is on the run, in danger and up to his neck in conspiracy, hacking, and privacy issues.
This story has everything.
Main characters Max and Penny are fantastic. And I didn’t like either of them, in the beginning. That changes as they develop throughout the story. Max has flaws, but he recognizes and tries to deal with them. Penny is a loner, ready to run, a hacker who knows she could be caught at any moment. But she learns to trust Max as he learns to trust her, and they form a strong team in their search for the information Evan left behind.
Evan, although he leaves the story early, is present throughout as the two hackers follow his clues and unravel the mystery that led to his death. His character is wonderful; diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is obsessive about privacy, organized, and loyal.
The plot is fast-paced and original. Author E.C. Myers not only gives the reader a thrill ride with high speed chases, men in black, genius teenage hackers, and just-in-time escapes, but also delves into the concept of privacy, and social media as a tool for gathering information and control. What is the connection?
The tech giant Panjea runs a Facebook-like site that connects users and gathers information. What is happening to this data? What is it being used for, and by whom?
The “anonymity is good, government is bad” message is a bit heavy handed, but does keep the narrative on track.
My one criticism of the novel is the info dump that seems to take place every time Max or Penny or anyone with a computer turns it on. Information is great. And I know next to nothing about coding and hacking, so a bit of knowledge is good. But even I don’t need to know absolutely every keystroke that Max takes to delete a file. Or download one.
The author has added an interesting dimension to the story with a website, a YouTube channel, a blog, and a tumblr account that appear in the book, although they have not been updated since early 2015. With a sequel in the works, however, this could change.
Keeping in mind the graphic description of Evan’s death in the first chapter of the book, The Silence of Six is still appropriate for the entire YA age range, and serves as an interesting commentary about what we choose to share online. It is original and exciting and makes you wish you could surf government servers just for fun.
The Silence of Six was published November 5th 2014 by Adaptive Books.