Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Silence of Six by E.C. Myers

“What is the Silence of Six, and what are you going to do about it?” is the final, cryptic statement a mysterious hacker makes before he kills himself on live TV.

This teen techno thriller is a refreshing read amongst all the teen dystopian fantasies and paranormal reads out there with their angst, drama, and romances. The cool cover and intriguing title hint at a promising read, and the book delivers on that promise.

At a presidential debate held at his high school, Max and his school witness Evan, his best friend, hack the debate on live TV, leave a cryptic message about the "silence of six," and commit suicide. Life turns upside down for Max quickly, as he realizes his friend has uncovered a conspiracy involving Panjea, one of the largest social media presences in the world. He goes on the run when the investigation into Evan uncover their friendship, and the clues Evan leaves connect Max to whatever Evan was involved in. Max finds himself relying on his hacking skills, his knowledge of his best friend, and the hacking community to figure out what the clues mean.

This book is a technical checklist of the things Myers does well without sacrificing story. It is a fast-paced, intense read with a clean writing style and is well-written.  It does not feel juvenile, nor does it get bogged down with technical details on hacking that would lose the lay person. It maintains a nice balance with providing information and just enough of it to make a convincing story.  Empowering to read is how teens could be such skilled hackers and can do so much.  Even better is how Max and his friend, DoubleThink, are not stereotypes and their first introduction addressed some of those stereotypes without being pedantic. 

Myers displays a solid grasp of the issues of privacy and anonymity with the internet and social media, and the conflict is not reduced to good versus evil. The situation is more complex than that, with people who are motivated by fear, doing the right thing, friendship, selfishness, and greed.  Evan haunts the story, not only through his death but with how his character gets fleshed out. As Max figures out Evan's clues, which are based on how well they know each other, Max reveals details about Evan and learns about parts of Evan’s life that were kept secret. The story pacing is great, where the plot does not feel too convenient or easy. Myers captures just the right amount of emotion and intelligence.  The story has just enough resolution but also recognizes larger, underlying issues that are not going to be resolved overnight.

Look for The Silence of Six in the VBPL Catalog.  Try E.C. Myers other works, Ian McDonald’s Everness series (see review), and Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series for more solid teen speculative fiction.  

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