Book Review: The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

“With expert pacing, an incredible group of characters, a relentless evil, and a premise straight out of today’s headlines, The Dark Net delivers the goods.”

Dark NetConfined to a life of darkness, Hannah longs to see, and with modern technology, her wish can come true. Every wish comes with a price, and for Hannah, the technology that gives her a way to see the world also connects her deep into the dark recesses of the internet, a place where few dare to tread, and where evil has set up camp to prepare for the ultimate invasion. Lela, Hannah’s aunt, a reporter living the fast life as far away from technology as possible, is about to get a crash course in the darknet when she uncovers a shadowy group hell-bent on infiltration and the total destruction of the world as we know it.

Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon, Thrill Me, and current writer of Green Arrow for DC comics, hits the ground running with his latest release, The Dark Net. Evil’s afoot, and what a better place to hide than the deep recesses of the internet. Yes, there’s really a place called the darknet and it’s just as nasty as you imagine. Primarily used for people to lurk around online to pirate movies and music, the darknet is also where you’ll find murder-for-hire, terrorist recruiting sites, child pornography, and every kind of illegal online activity you can think of and probably a few you don’t want to think about. Our main character, Lela, is the furthest person you’d expect to be on the darknet. A hotshot reporter who never misses a deadline, she’s too active to even do simple Google searches, keeping her assistant infinitely busy. She doesn’t even own a smart phone, preferring to use an ancient flip-phone, which actually proves to be quite handy later on in the book. Despite her digitally challenged status, Lela knows a good story when she sees it, and refuses to let it go no matter how many weird people are trying to kill her.

Percy ramps up the danger, adding twists at every turn. By using a third person present tense narration, he keeps the action flowing, pounding the beats relentlessly, and still manages to flesh out his characters quite nicely. This does compromise us getting to care about the characters a little more, but when things get going, there’s really no time to think, so we care about these story people because we just need to know what happens to them next. The good thing is the action is a steady progression, which allows him to avoid the middle-of-the-book slump so many horror action stories suffer from. And he keeps it all interesting and compelling, shifting POV when needed so we stay with those characters most involved with everything going on.

Percy certainly knows his way around the occult, using references to tie his story down to history. And while the story deals with computers and servers and the internet, he doesn’t bog us down in the tedious details of those things, keeping it all on a conversational level so everyone can follow along. If there’s one complaint it’s that there are a few times when too many characters are on at one time, muddling the action to the point where rereading a couple scenes was necessary just to determine who was doing what. Other than that, this is one of the most intense novels we’ve read all year. A deft blend of tech and the supernatural, cyberpunk and the occult, with a low-tech reporter in the mix, and her 12-year-old blind niece who can navigate the doorways into the world of the darknet. Combine that with a motley crew cast of people who have been fighting this evil for years, you’re in for one helluva crazy, gory ride.

With expert pacing, an incredible group of characters, a relentless evil, and a premise straight out of today’s headlines, The Dark Net delivers the goods. For years now, many have feared how the internet will take over the world, and how that maybe there’s just something evil about it, perhaps the internet isn’t the way to run the world. Maybe they’re right. Regardless, this is one book you need to get hardwired into your brain as soon as possible.

BOB PASTORELLA

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardback: (272pp)
Release date: 1 August 2017

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