Review: Day One by Nate Kenyon

Day One coverDay One is a St. Martin’s Press publication by author Nate Kenyon. Filled with fast paced drama and a score of technical intrigue, this action thriller brings the worlds of science fiction fandom and conspiracy theorists all together in one volume.

The story’s hero is John Hawke, a struggling journalist with a sordid past that all comes tumbling back in the wake of a major disaster. While in New York covering a new start-up tech company headed by James Weller, the former CEO of a powerful technological organization called Eclipse, the city comes under a cyber-attack by an unknown force. In what begins as subtle glitches in phone and internet services, the New York quickly turns into a war zone as all electronic devices fall under the control of an artificial lifeform that calls itself Admiral Doe. Originally designed by Weller’s previous company, Doe is an algorithmic life form that sees Hawke who once was a notorious hacker as a threat to its existence and systematically tracks them as they try to escape the ruins of downtown.

Doe takes on the horrific personality of Arthur C. Clarke’s iconic foe Hal 9000, becoming increasingly agitated with the carbon based units trying to shut it down. Kenyon digs deep into his science fiction bag of tricks with obvious nods toward the frightful consequences of Terminator’s dreadful Skynet and at one time even questions Asimov’s three laws of robotics. But in the crumbling remnants of the dying city, fans of classic giant monster horror films will feel right at home as our cast tries to navigate to freedom.

This book is a strong stage for conspiracy theorists who believe there is always an evil element out there waiting to pounce.  But one question that continues to arise is the overall scope of Doe’s control. It is assumed that national security is compromised as air strikes begin following the hero, but because we are only following Hawke, readers are not privy to the global implications. Given that the books title is Day One, we can only assume and hope that day two might be just around the corner and shed some light on the larger picture.

It’s obvious that the story centers on Hawke’s aspiration to get out and reunite with his wife and son as readers are constantly reminded with flashbacks. Hawkes marriage is not perfect and the flaws of our hero can sometimes overpower the action, taking us away from the twisting plot. We are also reminded that his young son Thomas is a special needs child and at times it seems like Hawke is mixed with both anger and regret. These are interesting character traits that build foundations for intricate plotlines, but the odd timing of some of the flashbacks make Hawke seem less “heroic” and weaken the reader’s believability and compassion for the character. In a life and death action thriller, this can take way from a lot of the tension.

For a character driven story, Nate Kenyon has left a lot of potential on the table, giving readers room to question the hero’s value and overall believability. But on the cyber-thriller charts, Day One is a fun, fast paced thriller with a bright future in the possibility of many additional installments.

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