Book Review: Assured Destruction by: Michael F. Stewart

Rating: 4/5

Publisher: Non Sequitur Press

Publish Date: March 22, 2013

Origins: From Publisher for Review

Format: Paperback & Ebook

Order From:  Amazon / Kindle

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.

Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They're stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose their livelihood.

When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.

Author Bio: After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults.

Review: Janus “Jan” Rose is a very intelligent, yet introverted girl. I think some of the introversion comes from having a home life she’d rather not let anyone know about, especially the other kids at school, and a part-time job. Her mother is in a wheelchair and gets worn out easily, so Jan works the front desk of her family’s business, Assured Destruction, almost every day. Aside from being very smart (she is a better computer programmer than her computer teacher at school), she doesn’t apply herself to her schoolwork and she’s lonely. She built Shadownet to have different outlets for her creativity using hard drives which should have been destroyed to create avatars based on real people. When a woman brings in the hard drive of a boy from school (who she kind of likes), she can’t resist adding him to her collection. Ever since, things have been falling apart for Jan. Her avatars’ real-life counterparts are being hacked and malicious information posted about them online. All fingers are pointing at her and not only is her precarious standing at school in jeopardy, but so is her family’s business. Can Jan fix it all without losing everything she cares about?

‘Assured Destruction’ is what I would consider both a coming-of-age story and a mystery. Jan, her family’s livelihood, and her “friends” are being threatened and it’s up to Jan to step up to fight this unseen and unknown enemy. She’s smart enough to put the pieces together, but needs a little help from her friends. While she’s figuring out the mystery, Jan has to grow up and take responsibility for her own actions and their consequences. I liked Jan and I was glad to see her come to terms with her mistakes and open herself up to others in real life. It was also interesting to see the shift in how Jan saw others around her as she was previously only comfortable dealing with online personas. I would recommend ‘Assured Destruction’ to older kids and adults as some of the subject matter may not be appropriate for younger readers. I think it’s also a good story for parents to read with their teenagers as it can facilitate discussions and open lines of communication. It’ll be interesting to see where the author takes Jan next if there is a sequel…

Series: Assured Destruction (1)

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