Thursday, February 8, 2018

All Systems Down

By Sam Boush
Lakewater Press     2018
229 pages     Thriller

In what looks like it may be the beginning of a series of books, Sam Boush has created a compelling story line that is a real page turner. All Systems Down is an unsettling read because it is very close to reality.

We are first aware that something extremely bad is happening when a military pilot and her copilot suddenly find themselves without a connection to their flight carrier. Then we are introduced to Brendan who is applying for a job online at a business and the computers go goofy. Little by little, the entire infrastructure of the country comes undone. By chapter 3 we know that the cyber attackers are North Koreans operating out of China. (This is the “too close to reality” part.) It takes the government a while longer to realize that there may be a physical attack as well as a cyber attack in the works. A government hacker named Xandra is sent to the Oregon coast to try to stop an anticipated invasion and to try to counter the cyber attack.  All characters converge on the Oregon coastline. It is at this point that the action really takes off. 

This novel is all plot, suspense, and thrills. If you are looking for action, this is the book for you. If you are seeking great character development or eloquent narrative, try something else. The characters are awkward and the narrative is sometimes strange and unreadable. The book's best feature is that several women serve as both heroes and villains. One of the more interesting characters is the villain, Sierra, who appears about half way through the novel. Another major character, the military pilot, is a woman named Kelly. Xandra, the hacker, is also interesting because of the lack of warmth she portrays as she executes acts of heroism.

When All Systems Down ends, the reader is reassured that there will be a sequel.
Kelly shivered, “The war isn’t over.”
“No,” Xandra said. “It isn’t.”
“We have children to worry about, “ Ireana said. “War or no war, we need to find someplace safe.”
“Is anywhere safe?” Annalore said.

As you can probably tell, I didn’t much like this book. I expressed as much to my husband, who was incredulous. “Why,” he said, “would you continue reading a book you didn’t like when you have hundreds of books on your shelf and Kindle?”

I do have to admit that I was put off a bit by the second sentence of the book when I caught a proofreading mistake. The t and the he of the word "the" were separated by a space (t he). Can't separate myself from my editing career, I guess. However, many of the reviewers on Goodreads loved the book so I plugged on. Finally, I was turning pages as fast as I could. One small detail that fascinated me was that when the gigantic cyber attack happened, cars that had a lot of computer chips in them wouldn’t start or were stalled in the middle of the road. Ah---that would be me in my Toyota Prius!  

 Besides it was cold and snowy outside and I was sitting in front of the fireplace. Might as well read on.

This is Sam Boush's first novel. We will look forward to more from him.

Here is the Kirkus review.

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