The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

The Dark Net by Benjamin PercyThe Dark Net by Benjamin Percy
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on August 1st 2017
Genres: Technology
Pages: 272
Source: NetGalley

Hell on earth is only one click of a mouse away…

The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web, some use it to manage Bitcoins, pirate movies and music, or traffic in drugs and stolen goods. And now an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew:

Twelve-year-old Hannah -- who has been fitted with the Mirage, a high-tech visual prosthetic to combat her blindness-- wonders why she sees shadows surrounding some people.

Lela, a technophobic journalist, has stumbled upon a story nobody wants her to uncover.

Mike Juniper, a one-time child evangelist who suffers from personal and literal demons, has an arsenal of weapons stored in the basement of the homeless shelter he runs.

And Derek, a hacker with a cause, believes himself a soldier of the Internet, part of a cyber army akin to Anonymous.

They have no idea what the Dark Net really contains.

Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back

I finished The Dark Net a few days ago, and held off writing a review to allow myself to stew over it to see if I could make any sense whatsoever of what the hell I just read. At first glance, this novel is trying its damnedest to be something of a mix between a Gibson-esque future, and a modern day techno thriller. And at a surface level, I suppose it is. The closer you look, and the further you read, The Dark Net begins to unravel and all you are left with is a twisted hot mess of a novel that is impossible to follow, and has no depth or substance to it. I have left the over-long synopsis in with my review, as the novel defies my attempts to explain its plot.

I got about 20% of the way through the novel and realised that I had no idea what the names of any characters were, and by about 60% of the way through I realised I didn’t know what was going on. There are so many moving parts to this novel, but how they are connected, and if they are connected is a mystery buried deeper than the latest incarnation of The Silk Road. I finished this book but only through sheer bloodymindedness at actually finding a relatively promising cyberpunk novel.

There was something which nagged at me for a long time while reading the book, in that the premise and setup reminded me of another novel. I realised that it was the WWW series by Robert J Sawyer, which also featured a blind girl who used a maguffin to see the world around her. I made it through the first book in that series before it jumped the shark – something involving an orangutan addressing the United Nations as I recall… The point is, I didn’t like that series, and this felt like a poor man’s ripoff of that better written, if equally preposterous series.

The parts of The Dark Net which were original were not particularly interesting, and the parts which were interesting were not original. It lacked any kind of cohesive structure, and it just felt like an attempt at writing an experimental literary piece. There’s a reason I don’t generally write literary fiction, and it is largely exemplified in just how bloody annoying this book was. This is an over-long, over-written, under-structured pile of dreck that should not have seen the light of day. I was disappointed at what this book was compared to what it might have been, and that is the greatest sin an author can commit for me – to disappoint the reader.

Please, for the love of god, run away from this novel as fast as you can. Re-read Neuromancer, or one of Neal Stephenson’s early cyberpunk novels instead. You will thank me for it.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review..

Rating Report
Overall: one-star

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