Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
You Will Know Vengeance is an imaginative and wild technothriller by WA Pepper, a brilliant human being with a PhD and a creative mind that won't stop pumping out ideas.
This novel follows a man named Tanto, a top-tier hacker who embraces the Bushido code and hinges his life on its philosophy. Tanto is arrested by the government who treat him like an animal and strip him of his rights. He is forced to work for a corrupt and ambitious prison warden among a group of other hackers. Their goal is to “kill” or “capture” as many cyber-criminals and domestic terrorists as possible to meet a quota under the threat of otherwise being sent to Guantanamo Bay. Tanto is also charged with developing a software to make it easier to catch these criminals. Compounding these problems, a big and notorious criminal is introduced into the same prison, shaking things up. Can Tanto use his technical savvy, wit, and cunning to survive this ordeal?
You'd think this story were taking place in some post-apocalyptic dystopian world. Seriously! The introduction of the character also highlights the inhumane treatment of prisoners. It just seems like this is the government from 1984 or The Hunger Games. Would you be shocked and surprised to hear that this book takes place in the early 2010s in the good ole' United States of America?! We were!
You pick that fact up through little breadcrumbs and subtle clues scattered here and there. There are mentions of the 2008 recession, 9/11, the mistreatment of Arab prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and events relevant to the time.
Tanto is the hero this story needed. He is brilliant and clever. He thinks his way around problems. His idealism of Bushido is also a nice, interesting wrinkle to his character.
There were a few challenges with this book. For one, if you'd avoided reading the back of the book (like we did), you'd be hard pressed to find the plot. This book almost feels like it has no main plot and that its a series of side-quests in an RPG—like some fetch quests that some NPCs send you on to pad out the playtime. Interestingly, the author expressed a great interest in RPGs like Final Fantasy, so perhaps that's not surprising. But some of these side-quests, while interesting, don't seem like they advance the plot.
Well, they are. With every kill or capture, Tanto is working closer toward his freedom, but it doesn't feel that way. For example, there's a part in which it seems like Tanto is trying to entrap a cybercriminal without actually entrapping him (so that the person can be convicted). There's a part in which the protagonists bait some p***philes online to catch them. There's even some sort of bonding scene over basketball that just feels like fluff. It seems to jump from problem-of-the-day to problem-of-the-day. Perhaps the most interesting part of this book was when Tanto and Barca are forced to work together, something that reminded us of season one of Prison Break in which the brilliant, heroic Michael Schofield is forced to work with gangsters and murderers to break out of prison and save his brother on death row.
Like the character says, nothing brings a team together like a crisis.
There are some truly great parts of this book. One is a scene involving CPR. It is the most tense and realistic-seeming CPR scene we've ever seen or read about. Another thing is just how incredible and masterful the author is at using similes and analogies. For example, you get lines like:
“...flows like a song”
“...like a firefighter who has just saved me”
“...like a dead fish”
“...like a scene in a horror movie”
“...like a grizzly bear about to pounce”
“... like a light switch flipping”
“... break through a firewall as if someone made it out of tissue paper”
“...as if they were attached to sandpaper.”
This might be the best use of similes we've seen this season.
There is also a lot of social commentary in here, especially regarding incarceration in the United States.
If you're into thrillers and smart anti-heroes wrestling their way out of tight situations, this book may be for you!
Check it out on Amazon!