Hinch's Reviews > Zero Day

Zero Day by Mark Russinovich
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Aug 20, 11

Read in August, 2011

I was eager to read Zero Day following an enthusiastic recommendation from Steve Gibson of the Security Now podcast. The author, Mark Russinovich, is employed as a senior technical resource at Microsoft, is recognised as an expert in the Windows operating system, and was cofounder of Wininternls, a small company that released a suite of highly respected low-level administration and debugging tools.

The premise of the book is both sound and scary. A small terrorist group coordinates the development of a vast array of sophisticated and malicious malware specifically targeted at the United States and Europe. With the exception of a small number of unintended "misfirings", the malware, which is cloaked using complex root kit technology, is scheduled to activate en masse, on September 11, 2011. The intent is to wreak havoc on a western world which has become increasingly dependent on internet connected technology.

This was Mark's first novel, and although I did not expect a work of staggering significance, I was hopeful that the story would be compelling, and the technical references insightfully presented. Unfortunately I was wrong on both accounts.

This is a fantastical tale of one-dimensional cliched characters, complete with gratuitous sexual references, racial stereotypes, and predictable dialogue. The technical references are cumbersome in their simplification, and the insistence that all electronic conversation be conducted in l33t speak is simply embarrassing.

The plot is dependent on inexplicable timings and hackneyed portrayals: Arabs are fundamentalists, Chechens are psycho, Russians are pig-headed, South Americans are prostitutes, and women in the tech-industry are "hot to trot".

The book is inevitably fast paced, and action packed, as very little pretence is made toward character development, context, or god-forbid, any kind of textual subtly. Perhaps the only saving grace of the novel is that it will effortlessly translate to the big screen without a hint of modification, for it already plays out like a cheap-thrills b-grade blockbuster.

The following quote from the book's main character (possibly autobiographically motivated?), the tall, good looking, well built, charming IT security consultant, sums it up:
"If someone had told him a month ago that he'd be on the run from assassins with a beautiful new lover, that he'd been shot at and wounded, that the fate of the western world lay with him, he'd have told them they were crazy. But here he was and he had to admit there was something to be said for it."

And crazy it is. Mark may be able to write code, but he sure as hell can't write respectful fiction.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Lianne Burwell I enjoyed the first two thirds, even if the hero and heroine were complete Marty Stu/Mary Sues. Then it reached the point where they headed off to Russia, and it went laughably bad.


J.M. Varner Also heard about this book on Security Now from Steve Gibson. Just started it and not impressed. Bland writing, excessive vulgarity. And that's only in Chapter 1. :/


Lushr " one-dimensional cliched characters, complete with gratuitous sexual references, racial stereotypes, "
Amen, glad I didn't read further, this is one of those rich white guys who believes he can do whatever he wants, with a slim grasp of reality.


message 4: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Abrahams The quote is a killer. (-: Removed from my To Read list on the basis of that.


message 5: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Zeckner Same for me.


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