I am a sucker for books in the techno-thriller genre because this is my area of expertise. This is the main reason I picked up and listened too “Dark Genius” written by H. Peter Alesso. This book is the author’s second book series released and be aware, this is the first released book in the series and the only one currently available in audiobook format; at the time of this review. The audiobook edition was well narrated by Jennifer Groberg, who has quite a few books under her belt on Audible. Although the book has a decent story and plot, I found there were too many holes in the author’s research and implementation of technology making it less realistic than I would have preferred. For those who are less technical and like an exciting action filled tale, I recommend you give the book a listen. If you are a fan of conspiracies, clandestine hackers, and advanced quantum computing with a distinctive AI (artificial intelligence), you may find the book enjoyable. For me, it is was good, but I was hoping it would have been great. A few changes, edits and some more research into the many technologies used might have done the trick elevating this book above many others in a crowded genre.
The book opened with a good prologue and ramped up the action rather quickly. I also enjoyed that the book took place in the Boston area, which I’m quite familiar with, and that it was often between classmates from both Harvard and MIT. There was quite a bit of the well-known banter between the students of both campuses as each of them feel they are better than others. The story at times felt predictable and the conversations seemed forced. There was a lot of action, but little depth and substance when I step back and think about the story. The sentence structure and dialogues had a feeling of being younger adult (YA) and at times even childish. This for me felt out of character for these geniuses as I would have thought their vocabulary would have been more advanced and complex. Even some of the conversations between the professors of the campus and the students felt immature at times.
Any modern-day technology thriller needs to have either a quantum computer or artificial intelligence; or both. This story had both with a good portion of the action and activity occurring around CERN and the two Boston campuses. There is some great discussion and topics involving statistics, probability, and research which one expects from a book in this genre. However, the areas that are more focused on computer attackers and their activity felt weak and less realistic. I do not expect one-hundred percent realism in these subject areas, but I would like to have something that feels right and still has a sense of mystery. Something like the TV series Mr. Robot, but this story had too many technological issues for me to fully enjoy it. Systems were to easily compromised and their passwords stolen with very little effort. As much as this seems the case by reading newspapers or news media, the actual effort is quite tedious and time consuming. Add to this, one of the most modern and state of the art quantum computers requiring me to suspend belief to accept its use and ability. At times, I felt the author would toss in a few computer terms just to make the book feel more realistic, yet for those in the know, it often had the opposite effect.
I did like the areas where the author has some conversations involving physics, but this may have been my lack of knowledge making it seem realistic. The book felt more like a serious take on the movie comedy “Real Genius” released in 1985. The characters lacked a level of depth I would have expected from those in their field of expertise. There was some light romance which also did not feel as smooth or natural. The movement between the dark web and the campus activity was not as smooth of a transition as I would have expected and the events from the bad people from the dark web were experts in cleaning up their tracks by simply deleting logs. In the real world, things are much more complex than this and even more complicated when speaking of a quantum computer. For me, it came down to how much I could believe and what I knew was fantasy or simply misunderstood technology by the author.
The audiobook’s narration was performed quite well, and I do not recall any issues with the audio or any background artifacts while listening. The narrator’s voice was crisp and clean, and she did a decent job of giving each of the characters unique personalities via their voice. The only thing I would have preferred would have been to have a male voice the main character. I understand this is simply a personal preference and many may enjoy the book as it is currently narrated.
For parents and younger readers, not only does the book contain some light scenes of romance, but it also has a few descriptive sexual scenes that may be inappropriate for younger readers. Even though the writing style is more simplistic which could be comprehended by younger readers, the mature subject matter is something that I would only recommend for mature readers.
In summary, the story was average and overall enjoyable. I did have a few issues, as stated above, around the use of technology and the writing style being more YA, but for those who may not case about these items, the story is not bad. I liked the premise and the direction, but the issues with researching and my knowledge of technology made it difficult for me to truly love it. If this type of book sounds interesting, please give it a try as I know it can take a few book for an author to find his stride.