Monday, April 8, 2013

"Assured Destruction" - by Michael Stewart (Tribute Books Blog Tour)

"Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.

Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They're stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose their livelihood. 

When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Michael Stewart

After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults.

I know very little about computers.  Being able to utilize basic Microsoft programs, game a little, cuss Excel into cooperating with me, minor photo editing...I'd quickly be swamped by the genius of Jan - the main character in Assured Destruction.  But what happens when someone's genius gets the better of them...or those around them....
The Good
I've heard it said - rather accurately, I think - that the significant advances in technology over the past couple decades has meant that those older than 30 may as well have grown up in a different culture as our current youth, despite the fact that the same space is occupied.  Technology is the name of the game in today's developed world.  This necessarily means we have those who are waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy better at using that tech than others.

It was pretty clear to me that this book was written for a young audience.  Sentence structure, plot flow, plot developments...and perhaps the fact that Stewart dared to take some risks in this book that are more common in young adult literature than others genres.  This is in no way a bad thing (remember this is in "the good" section of this post?), just an observation.

I love Jan - the main character.  Perhaps it is that she shares an awesome name with the most awesome lady I know (my momma).  Perhaps it is because she is snarky. Perhaps it is because I identified to a certain extent with her stubbornness and seclusion from the world at large.  She is spunky, determined, a character, and brilliant.  Oh, and thank you, Stewart, for having a computer expert be female.  Far too often it is assumed that today's geeks are generally male.  While computers may be a field dominated by guys, us girls are plenty smart about computers as well.  :)

The other characters are pretty good too (my favorite will forever be Jan).  I enjoyed that her mother played a significant role and that her mother is battling a disease that leaves her wheelchair bound.  Now, let me make it clear that I don't enjoy it when people are in a wheelchair...I simply enjoy that Stewart allows for the fact that we are all temporarily able-bodied individuals, and reality means sometimes our bodies need help.

Another significant piece about the characters in this book?  The relationships between said characters.  The interplay between Jan and her mother is beautifully done, as well as believable.  The high school drama is true to what I've seen depicted elsewhere and heard about (I was homeschooled and didn't have to deal with that drama in real life).  Tension, energy, yay!

Anyhow, I liked how this book flows.  The chapters are short enough that one doesn't get too burned out on reading before there being a break in the action, but they are not so short as to be annoying (I dislike 2-3 page chapters - that's not a chapter...that's a sneeze).  The grammar is flawless (yay!).  The plot steps right along to a beat reminiscent of keyboard strokes.

I am not easily surprised.  Life and literature have dealt me enough surprises that it generally takes a lot for my jaw to meet floor.  This work did so in several places.  The person who attempted Jan's rescue near the end?  Not who I expected.  The bad guy?  Not who I expected.  Why the bad guy did what they did?  Not who I expected.  :)  It is extremely refreshing to find a work that has unpredictable twists and turns.

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
Just a few things I had to nit pick...

Character motivation is not clearly explained for several of those who interact with Jan.  Why does Chippy, a computer science teacher, go so out of his way to harass her?  Oh sure, she's scads above where she needs to be for his class, but do teachers really go that far out of their way to harass a student when the student could be teaching them? I understand feeling threatened in such a situation, but c'mon.  (If you want to know what I'm talking the book!).  Some characters are a little flat that I want to know better (both of her love interests, for example).

For that matter, I'd want more explanation about Jan's background...true, Stewart gives some details about how her and her mother ended up in their current situation, but I want more.  How exactly did they come to live where they live?  Why the heck did her dad leave the family?  Why....

Character voices blend.  Okay, so I like how they interplay....but I don't really care for how several of them sound like each other.  When Jan is arguing with her mother, her mother is just as snappy, stubborn, and determined as she is.  Okay, so they are mother and daughter and will think/talk somewhat alike, I get that.  But then the others involved also sound the same and have some of the same kind of speech mannerisms.  This is a signal that this is how an author thinks/speaks or such, and as such it bothers me when character voices blend into one another so well.

I'd recommend this book to my brother, someone who is intensely interested in computers.  It is a good book...I liked it but I'm not over the moon about it.  Maybe this is because I suffer from not-having-real-world-experience-with-high-school-itis.  Perhaps it is because character voices blending is among my top three pet peeves in written works.  Not sure.  What I am sure about is that it is a good, fast read that has some good one-liners, doesn't require a degree in computer science to understand, and is relatable for anyone who has ever felt like an outcast.  Now excuse me as I go make sure no one has used my identity as an online avatar...

Overall, I give this work a 7 out of 10.  


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  1. Thank you for your thoughtful review, Elnora! Readers will learn a lot more about Janus' family's past in book 2 and 3! Also if you follow the characters on Twitter, but that last isn't necessary. If you have questions, fire away!

  2. Nora, I'm with you. I love how Michael made our heroine computer savvy! Thanks for the review :)