Hello World (.EXE Chronicles #1), by Tiffany Rose and Alexandra Tauber
Description: (from Pandamoon Publishing)
Scott’s skills as a surveillance expert come in pretty handy when he’s breaking down firewalls. But hacktivism isn’t enough; he’s going after the holy grail—UltSyn’s Human Information Drives, human assets implanted with cerebral microchips. While plenty of hackers are trying to save the world these days, all Scott wants is to find his sister.
After following the clues to London, he makes a plan to kidnap the technical marvel heading into town. When this Human Information Drive turns out to be someone unexpected, his nerve waivers. The HID, who calls herself Sonia, would be priceless on the market, but born out of joint self-preservation the two team up.
With her contacts, they travel across Europe in the search of personal secrets and leave a trail of industrial espionage all for the sake of misdirection. As the unlikely pair digs deeper into restricted databases, Scott discovers that those who enlist with UltSyn get far more than they bargained for. Not only is this secret HID program is much bigger than he had imagined, students are lining up for a future they only think this biotech wonder company can provide. Even worse, these leads are getting him nowhere closer to his own goals.
Plunged into a world of human trafficking, Scott is determined to find his sister no matter the cost, which tests Sonia’s fragile friendship with him. But when the information reveals the people closest to Scott have been working for UltSyn all along, he has to find them—before UltSyn finds him.
Well, that’s a long synopsis! It reveals quite a lot actually, and I don’t think I’ve seen a longer one before haha. But hear me out, this book is super great.
Why did I pick this book up? I was first interested by this novel after having followed one of the author on twitter. I discovered this was an #ownvoices novel, regarding the asexuality of the main character Scott, that was a +1 for me already. THEN the ebook became free for a few days on kindle and I jumped on the occasion to get it and read it asap.
If you’ve read the synopsis, you see this is not a story about being asexual, but the representation of the character as such (gray-asexual to be correct) was really good. It involved some hints here and there, and a coming out by the end. The fact that Scott calls himself queer and is open aware his orientation, the way he is open about it, was also an important thing. So if you’re looking for a fun thriller with a dash of science fiction and an asexual protagonist, go for it!
I also loved Sonia quite a lot, I actually wished there would have been more chapters from her point of view. She’s a victim or some kind of weird human trafficking secret thing, where people are used as some kind of walking USB key or computers.
She’s kidnapped by Scott right at the beginning, because he believes she has informations stored inside her brain that could help him locate his sisters who was taken years ago by the same corporation that created HID (Human Information Drives).
I was ill-at-ease at first that their relationship starts of as her being his captive, I don’t like reading about those kind of “unbalanced” relationships. However having both their point of view on what’s happening, and the way the situation evolves, quickly cleared my worries about this issue. As the synopsis states, they end up teaming up to bring a big corporation down thanks to Scott’s skills
with a gun as a hacker. Yeah, while being a prodigy at hacking things, Scott also is very skilled at shooting people and running around. He ends up covered in blood more often than not, but has to take time off in a realistic manner.
“Well buckle up ladies, gentlemen, and my new non-binary friends.” I smirked. “This isn’t going to be easy.”
The “traveling across Europe” bit could have been explored a little bit more. They might have gone to three or four countries and I feel it could have been literally anywhere else, appart from the different gun regulations (that I find was a clever addition). I know they don’t have time for sightseeing, but I didn’t felt it made a lot of difference in the end. I’m a little bit disappointed by this because it’s not often that I encounter a SF thriller happening in Europe and not in the US.
“Life became harder when you weren’t the only lawbreaker around. For a weapon that was theoretically illegal in the UK, there seemed to be a lot of them in my life. Annoying, was what that was.”
The worldbuilding and plot was interesting but the most important part of the story was the characters: I felt like everything happening was there so that their relationship could move forward. I didn’t mind that, but I see how some people might be bored by this. I actually tweeted this today after seeing the linked one from the author and it’s a perfect description of the book :
“Brief murder, fluff” because there are murders, fight scenes, infiltration, but also a whole lot super nice moments between the characters ❤
I actually understand the “meh” reviews, but despite the things that aren’t to everyone’s taste (I can’t get myself to call them “flaws” because they aren’t, really) in Hello World I had a good time and never felt like I wanted to put it down or go and read something else.
There comes a time when everyone needs help, I said, and you taught me that being independant doesn’t mean you can’t lean on someone when you have to.”
Overall I’d recommend this fast-paced and character centric novel, especially if you’re looking to read more #ownvoices stories. I grew attached to Sonia and Scott way more than I anticipated and I’m looking forward to read Book 2 of this series.
(The cover states clearly that this is Book 1 of the .EXE Chronicles so I’m guessing talking about a Book 2 isn’t too farfetched even if there hasn’t been any official announcement or titles revealed.)
If like me you’re interested on who authors are before reading their book, here are their cool author bio bellow! ❤