Angry Nerd Book Review
I need to start off by saying I am not a fan of techno-thrillers. I don’t generally read books in that genre, or really even in the thriller genre, certainly not murder mysteries. They tend to be overly technical, I’m not a tech guy and I tend not to enjoy them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when we were contacted about having Drew on the show. We were sent an advanced copy of the book (first time that’s happened, so it was already super cool) and I sat down, figuring I could pace myself and read it at my leisure.
I was completely wrong.
Broken Genius grabs you by the collar and drags you into the story right away. You instantly care about what happens to Kate Mason, you’ve invested in the work that Will and Jack are doing hoping that they can beat the clock. Drew does a great job establishing the mood and the tense atmosphere, the sensation of dread an almost physical weight on your chest as you move from one line of text to the next. Each sentence is like seconds ticking on a timer, counting down to an explosion. Will the time run out or will the good guys win?
And that’s just the first chapter! I think this is the type of book that can, nay, must be adapted into a multi-part series on HBO. It’s really well done, well-paced and there are times when I felt like I was watching the action unfold, instead of reading words on a page. To me, that is the ultimate barometer for the quality of a story.
I can hear you asking, “But what is the book even about?” The plot synopsis for this book, according to the Amazon Page is the following:
“In 2011, Will Parker, the young prodigy CEO of a big tech company makes a coding mistake that costs a college student her life. To assuage his guilt, Will pursues a career in the FBI Cyber Division.
Now, Special Agent Will Parker is called to investigate a murder scene at a Comic Con event in the Midwest, where the victim has ties to a radioactive quantum computer that Will was working on before he left his gig as CEO.
Working with smart local homicide detective Dana Lopez and FBI stuffed-shirt Thomas Decker, Will discovers the victim was holding an auction for the computer on the Dark Web—and the bidding is still live.
With bidders including a legendary Chinese hacker, Russian criminals sent by the Kremlin, and a corporate executive desperate to escape a scandal, Will once again finds a life in his hands when the victim’s daughter is taken hostage. A trail of blood and high-tech breadcrumbs leads Will deeper into mystery, danger, and a race against time to keep unlimited power out of the wrong hands.”
Will Parker, no Agent will Parker…sorry Special Agent Will Parker, formerly of Silicon Valley and now of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is, as he was described by Ashes during our interview with Drew on the podcast, a “lovable asshole”. He’s got money, brains, and fame and he wants you to know it, which is why he stays in the Presidential Suite, flaunts his gadgets and tech, solves complex problems with ease (and makes sure you know how easy it was for him) but at the same time, he’s putting all of his considerable skills and talents into helping people.
He’s arrogant and obscenely confident in his own abilities, but he has the credibility to back up his sometimes-abrasive personality. He’s exceptionally good at what he does but understands the limitations he has and finds ways to work around him, highlighting his skills while downplaying his deficiencies. Another very important distinction is that while Will may be an arrogant jerk, he never cuts anyone down, he never gives them grief for not knowing how to do the things that he does. He might use these moments as opportunities to show off, but never by belittling someone, and he almost always explains what he’s doing in a way that they can understand; not overly technical but with a simple analogy. In a way, it’s very Star Trek. This, to me, is a testament to Drew’s skill at writing. He knows the processes and procedures that he’s writing about, he knows how they’re performed, but he makes sure to write it in a way that even someone who is not overly tech-savvy can easily follow and understand.
One of the best aspects of this book is that it takes place at a mid-sized comic con. Drew is an avid con attendee, and like so many of us, he is really missing that scene right now. The way the scenes at the convention are written, it’s almost like you’re there. If you’ve ever experienced a large- or medium-sized con, so much of the landscape will be familiar to you. From the rows upon rows of vendors, the cosplayers, the gruff corporate types who are there representing their companies’ latest tech or gadgets, Drew captures the whole scene. There’s even a part about how one of the vendors complains that electricity isn’t included with his booth and the wi-fi is terrible – both frequent complaints from folks who shell out hundreds of dollars to sell their various wares.
Drew’s narrative is driven by a single motivation – Will’s desire to rectify the mistakes of his past. You feel for Will, you understand his motivations and his innate need to be successful in everything he does. That’s not to say that his overconfidence isn’t occasionally his undoing. There are several circumstances in which Will finds himself over his head, and as the story is told from Will’s point of view, he rationalizes what he does wrong, and through hindsight makes corrections, almost as if he’s storing that information just in case this particular situation arises in the future – he wants to be prepared.
Drew’s work contains real passion; the way he writes about the conventions, the fandoms, and even the IT aspect of the story you can tell that there is a real love for the things in this book. There are definitely pieces of himself throughout the range of characters we meet, as well as the experiences he has had at conventions. Maybe one of my favorite things about this whole book is the many Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the writing. Sometimes it’s just a line of dialogue, maybe a description of a scene, but there are quite a few. I am proud to say that I am the first person who has read the book who picked up on the Matrix reference (especially because it’s a rather obscure line), but there still might be a few in there that I didn’t mention that you can look for on your own.
I highly recommend this book. Not only is it well-written, but I think if you’re like me and so many other folks who are kind of hankering for a con experience (because who knows when we’ll see that again) this provides a bit of a respite. You’ll be reading it and you’ll end up transposing yourself into some of the scenes, you’ll be imagining the crowded hall, the drone of thousands of conversations occurring at once that produce that delightful white noise that wraps you like a cloud, the feeling of closeness to the other attendees, maybe even a phantom rib pain from the time you were elbowed unintentionally by someone rushing off to see a panel with their favorite TV star. You remembered that you were only mad for a second, because you saw that person hustling in their costume headed straight for the person that they were emulating, and you just get it. It might not make your ribs feel better, but you get it. This is a great book, so much so that despite getting an advanced copy, I ordered the hardcover as well. Do yourself a favor; get this book in your preferred medium, follow his author page on Amazon, and leave a review. At the time of this writing, it has a rating of 4.2/5 on Goodreads.
This concludes my first-ever book review, and I’m glad it was this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to see what Drew Murray gives to us next.