Who Am I? What am I?
These questions have plagued Joshua since childhood. Mysterious amplified senses and boosted reflexes have helped him survive and thrive in a brutal, lawless megacity, and he leads the notorious Epitaph gang with keen street instincts.
When Joshua’s unexplained abilities draw the attention of a covert government entity, he finds himself on the run. Only his skills and street smarts keep him one step ahead of his relentless hunters.
They know what he is. They know who he is, and they will tear apart a megacity, placing everyone he cares for in danger, to bring him in.
Davidson’s prose is gritty and atmospheric, with sharp dialogue and a jaded, lived-in narrative voice: “It would have been picturesque if it weren’t for the bodies,” Davidson writes, after a striking description of an abandoned church. The fallen futuristic world of Zero-Day is convincingly detailed: government surveillance technology is embedded into citizens; video games give people new identities; and the remnants of the old United States are a battleground for the disenfranchised. Populating it are a cast of well-drawn characters, primarily Joshua, a calculating anti-hero gang leader who governs with impunity. Kevin, Joshua’s best friend and weapons designer, finds new life in the Virtual as a dashing elven hero, while Shelby, another of Joshua’s allies and fellow gang member, is a cunning hacker who guides Joshua through an unforgiving underworld.
Davidson gives similar color to the NSMZ agents in this suspense-driven story: agent Meriwether is cool and detached, relying on Southern charm to get what she wants, and Agent Farrell is dogmatic, ready to mindwipe his enemies at any opportunity. Readers will be keen to immerse themselves in this realistic, dark world, and Zero-Day will appeal to fans of hard boiled science fiction thrillers. Davidson writes with a frenetic, engaging energy that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Takeaway: The start of an engaging and gritty cyberpunk series set in a convincing and frightening future U.S.
Great for fans of: Matthew A. Goodwin’s Into Neon, D.L. Young’s Cyberpunk City series.
Design and typography: B-
Marketing copy: B-
The future is now, and Joshua isn’t exactly sure why he is so instinctively good at, well, almost everything. A high school dropout, a former addict and an orphan, Joshua has defied the odds and made a name for himself both in the Virtual and in the Real. A skilled gamer with a mind for strategy and an unexpected sense of justice, Joshua, with the help of his best friend, has devised an impressive device with limitless applications. The tech, appropriately named Maelstrom, is worth millions, but its purpose is dubious. Hoping to distance himself from the potentially deadly weapon, Joshua resolves to fade into the darkness of the gang of hackers and miscreants that has become his family as soon as he gets Maelstrom into the buyer’s hands. But the sale of the weapon doesn’t go according to plan, putting everyone Joshua cares about in danger. Complicating matters is the tenacious Agent Vince Farrell, head of security at the Nevada State Military Zone. Farrell is smart and good at what he does, but underestimating Joshua’s skill might be his biggest mistake.
Edgy and futuristic, Zero-Day boasts a relentless pace that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Intense and meticulously realistic action scenes are paired with an intelligent plot, making for a story that gets better and more involved with each turn of the page. Joshua is a dynamic and exciting character whose emotional complexity and relatable lapses in judgment endear him to readers. Besides realistic worldbuilding, the author includes just enough minor details about people and places to make everything feel authentic. And if you live for the virtual world and near-future tech, Al Davidson leaves nothing unexplored as he fills this novel with invisibility-cloaked drones, economical virtual weddings, disease-curing nanomachines and some awesome character-defining nicknames. Packed with dark action, imaginative violence and a well thought out story, Zero-Day is a wild ride you’ll want to buckle in for!
Davidson’s debut series starter is an SF thriller that revolves around a young man with a mysterious background—and even more mysterious abilities.
The narrative is set in the near future of 2073 on the West Coast of a United States ravaged by ecological and economic disaster. San Francisco, for example, has been devastated by earthquakes and is now called Old Town, a lawless wasteland of “warring gangs, drug dealers, low-level mobsters, and sex peddlers.” Joshua Cabrerais the 24-year-old leader of the Epitaphs. They’re at the top of Old Town’s food chain, due in large part to their brilliant, tech-savvy members, who can hack into any site and have developed cutting-edge cybernetic, implanted wetware for their members. Under Joshua’s steady leadership, the gang is about to finish a multimillion-dollar deal to sell the Maelstrom, a seemingly unstoppable mind-linked weapon designed by Joshua and his best friend, Kevin Maitland, a developer who’s done revolutionary work in nanotech and neuroscience. But the deal goes bad, and Joshua and his crew become prime targets in the Nevada State Military Zone, run by tyrannical government agencies. Agent Vince Farrell’s mission is simple: locate Joshua and the revolutionary weapon at any cost. However, Joshua is much more than he seems—and his unexplainable enhancements may lead to greater revelations. This SF crime novel has a lot of noteworthy elements. The worldbuilding, for instance, is exceptional—even in the virtual realities that provide characters with entertainment—as is the fine pacing. There’s also an impressive amount of action and adventure as well as intricate plotting and detailed character development. Joshua, in particular, has significant depth that gives him the potential to carry multiple future installments. And the humor throughout is a definite plus; readers won’t soon forget an odd gag involving virtual chipmunks.
Cyberpunk aficionados will enjoy this slick and highly readable tale.