I read the first two books in Michael F. Stewart's "Assured Destruction" and found them to be entertaining reads although I thought that the series lost a little steam in the second novel. I started the third book in the series, "Assured Destruction: With Zombies," hoping to find the series return to the higher level of the first book as it detailed the further adventures of Janus Rose.
Janus Rose has found herself out of the police department's High Tech Crime Unit and still searching for a way to keep her family business open and a roof over her head. To make matters even more complicated, her mother has become more seriously ill and has to be hospitalized. Now Jan is left on her own to try and pull the pieces of her life together and keep herself and her mother afloat in a world that seemed determined to push them down. Now comes the final piece that seems to almost assure Jan of failure: a strange and destructive computer virus that has come to be known as the Zombie Worm.
The Zombie Worm is not only a threat to Jan's school and the secretive network of hackers, Shadownet, but also to the city and the world as a whole. Jan discovers a symbol associated with the Zombie Worm, a skull with a chain running through it, that links the virus to the family business's former customers. This symbol will lead her not only into the world of hackers but also into the mysterious past of her missing father. Jan must quickly determine who her friends and foes are as well as the type of person that she wants to be. Does she want to be a hacker that works for the good of society, a white hat, or one that works outside of the law in the service of her own personal needs and desires? The decision will ultimately lead to not only how she will live her life but to whether or not society as a whole will be changed forever.
The "Assured Destruction" series immediately caught my attention in the first novel but then I felt that the story faltered a little in the second book although I still enjoyed reading the novel. With "Assured Destruction: With Zombies," Stewart again captures the immediacy and tension of the first novel and again returns the series to the compelling story that drew me in at the beginning. While the second novel, "Assured Destruction: Script Kiddies," seemed to lack focus at times, I found myself racing through this novel almost desperate to find out how the series was going to wind up. Stewart has crafted something unique and compelling in this series and closes it out in an almost breathless race to the finish that left me reading as quickly as possible to see how the story was going to end.
"Assured Destruction: With Zombies" is a fun book to read with characters that are easily accessible and with action that is non-stop almost to the point of being relentless. Stewart manages to tie together the many different story lines that were presented in the series to craft a story that is satisfying and provides a conclusive end to the series (while still allowing enough leeway for Stewart to revisit the world again if he chooses to do so). I found the third book of the series to be the most compelling book of the series and I applaud Stewart for not only his unique vision in the series but also for his execution in telling the story in a way that left me satisfied with the series as a whole but also interested enough to welcome the further adventures of Jan Rose in the future. The "Assured Destruction" series is sure to satisfy young and old readers alike and is a very good young adult science fiction series.
I would like to thank Non Sequitur Press and NetGalley for this review copy. "Assured Destruction: With Zombies" is available now.