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The Zero Signal (Science Crimes Division #1)

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In the decades after tomorrow, the intersection of emerging technologies like AI, gene editing, and 3D printing gives ordinary people unprecedented power to remake themselves and their environment, which they use for frivolous, dangerous, and even sinister ends. After a series of high-profile calamities, the U.S. Congress passes the controversial Science and Technology Cont In the decades after tomorrow, the intersection of emerging technologies like AI, gene editing, and 3D printing gives ordinary people unprecedented power to remake themselves and their environment, which they use for frivolous, dangerous, and even sinister ends. After a series of high-profile calamities, the U.S. Congress passes the controversial Science and Technology Control Act, which licenses and regulates the practice of science. While serious infractions are rare, the increasing number of extraordinary threats are investigated by the Science Control Agency's secretive Section 08: Crimes Division. After a stint in federal prison for trying to save the world, Nio is done with the spotlight. She spends her days in front of a computer, quietly helping others with problems no one else can solve. When a case turns unexpectedly deadly, she travels to rural America to stop a hi-tech psychopath who tortures his victims via their own devices. Arrested by mistake, she's given a choice: return to prison or assist the investigation into the unexplained death of a renowned physicist—who happens to be her brother. Shackled to a disgraced FBI agent assigned to protect her, Nio and her new partner soon discover her brother's strange obsession with the paranormal may have been a cypher for something darker still. Pursued by his shadowy enemies and dodging the twisted affections of her rival, Nio has just days to discover the truth. But in a world made plastic by technology, truth is never the same twice.


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In the decades after tomorrow, the intersection of emerging technologies like AI, gene editing, and 3D printing gives ordinary people unprecedented power to remake themselves and their environment, which they use for frivolous, dangerous, and even sinister ends. After a series of high-profile calamities, the U.S. Congress passes the controversial Science and Technology Cont In the decades after tomorrow, the intersection of emerging technologies like AI, gene editing, and 3D printing gives ordinary people unprecedented power to remake themselves and their environment, which they use for frivolous, dangerous, and even sinister ends. After a series of high-profile calamities, the U.S. Congress passes the controversial Science and Technology Control Act, which licenses and regulates the practice of science. While serious infractions are rare, the increasing number of extraordinary threats are investigated by the Science Control Agency's secretive Section 08: Crimes Division. After a stint in federal prison for trying to save the world, Nio is done with the spotlight. She spends her days in front of a computer, quietly helping others with problems no one else can solve. When a case turns unexpectedly deadly, she travels to rural America to stop a hi-tech psychopath who tortures his victims via their own devices. Arrested by mistake, she's given a choice: return to prison or assist the investigation into the unexplained death of a renowned physicist—who happens to be her brother. Shackled to a disgraced FBI agent assigned to protect her, Nio and her new partner soon discover her brother's strange obsession with the paranormal may have been a cypher for something darker still. Pursued by his shadowy enemies and dodging the twisted affections of her rival, Nio has just days to discover the truth. But in a world made plastic by technology, truth is never the same twice.

45 review for The Zero Signal (Science Crimes Division #1)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jens

    At the risk of being quotable: this is the post-cyberpunk book a post-cyberpunk world needs. I previously just wrote that Dave Higgins wrote a better review than I would write: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... It's true, he wrote an excellent review. But I do think I have something to add. I do not intend to go into plot at all here, though. The blurb on the book page is enough of an introduction, and plot details might spoiler something. What compels me to write is genre and subtext. In ter At the risk of being quotable: this is the post-cyberpunk book a post-cyberpunk world needs. I previously just wrote that Dave Higgins wrote a better review than I would write: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... It's true, he wrote an excellent review. But I do think I have something to add. I do not intend to go into plot at all here, though. The blurb on the book page is enough of an introduction, and plot details might spoiler something. What compels me to write is genre and subtext. In terms of genre, the easiest comparison to make is Cyberpunk, and if anyone would ask me for a modern Cyberpunk recommendation, this book is easily at the top of my list. But various people have called it Biopunk, and Dave Higgins called it "hard weird" - as in weird fiction, but also hard sci-fi. The thing is, all of these are apt descriptions. You do have your ubiquitous 'net and artificial limbs - but they're not shiny neon and chrome. You do have gene manipulation, which in some ways is actually a central theme to the book - but you will not find much mention of commercialized genetic enhancement. You do have megacorporations with questionable amounts of political influence, but they do not feature more in the plot than Unilever does in your life - i.e. being both ubiquitous and almost entirely invisible. You do have weird fiction elements - which I won't spoiler - but they're plausible nuisances in the setting rather than things of wonder. Finally, yes, there is a very hard sci-fi angle to the book, and having spoken to Rick at length about it, it is in some senses the core of the novel. But at the same time, there is nowhere a huge "what if?" question posed on which the entire setting and plot are tenuously balanced. As usual for him, Rick delivers a novel that is incredibly hard to categorize, because even in checking off a ton of genre markers, it just refuses to slot neatly into place. And that is the reason for it's 5-star rating; I'd give it more if I could. In my opinion, it is this unwillingness to conform that makes the setting so compellingly plausible. I mean, look around where you are. Goodreads users tend to love books. We know we can escape into some world in one book, and an entire other in yet another. We go to work or school, which is one world in which we play a particular kind of role. We have family, where we play another. In our circle of friends we may be in the role of the person that holds everything together, or is on the fringes. Each one of us occupies multiple worlds every day in our lives, sometimes simultaneously. So how can we expect our futures to be as easy to grasp as other novels would lead us to believe? What Rick has created is a setting and genre that permits for all of those different worlds to coexist, in parallel as well as intersecting. Because that is what the things are like right now, so that is how they should be in the future. Life does not generally get simpler. Of course, something like this could become an unholy mess. What ties it together is the interaction between the protagonist and sidekick. Each occupies a slightly different world, and having to band together to solve the plot's central mystery means they each have to explain their complexity to the other. In doing so, Rick provides a thread for the reader to follow. Rick's skill is that this does not translate into chapters full of exposition, but weaves seamlessly into the overall narrative. What you're left with in the end, is the central mystery on the one hand finding a solution, in a very engaging and entertaining format. And on the other hand, you'll likely go away thinking that of course this is what the future will look like, because all alternative options seem frustratingly naive in comparison. I'm a huge fan of Cyberpunk - there's something that taps straight into a part of my brain about it. Back in the 80s, I was imagining all the ways computers could change our future that Cyberpunk tropes satisfy. These days, the neon, chrome and chiptune soundtrack are pure nostalgia indulgment - but I'm old enough to admit to that and enjoy it anyway. But if I'm asked what Cyberpunk *should* be - because it's supposed to make us a little uncomfortable with the near future, and it's supposed encourage something of a punk attitude towards it - then this book is the definite answer. It's just not a simple one. I can't wait for #2.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave Higgins

    Part biopunk thriller, part speculation on post-industrial social advance, this novel will appeal both to fans of fast-paced gritty action and thought-provoking futurism. In a possible future, advances in gene manipulation allow people to edit their own bodies as easily as we hack technology, leading to a thriving mod community. Most modders are good intentioned, if not always technically skilled, but some have darker motives. Arrested while chasing a psychopath who turns their victims’ bodies ag Part biopunk thriller, part speculation on post-industrial social advance, this novel will appeal both to fans of fast-paced gritty action and thought-provoking futurism. In a possible future, advances in gene manipulation allow people to edit their own bodies as easily as we hack technology, leading to a thriving mod community. Most modders are good intentioned, if not always technically skilled, but some have darker motives. Arrested while chasing a psychopath who turns their victims’ bodies against themselves, Nio is looking at a long time in prison; however, when her world-famous brother inexplicably dies on stage, the FBI offer her limited freedom in exchange for her assistance. The terms of her parole are strict and she genuinely wants to solve her brother’s death, but how can she let a criminal no one else even realises exists act without opposition? This review is based on an advanced copy of the novel. As the published version might differ, it will therefore not focus on fine details. Blending the “style over substance” and “hacker vs corporate government” tropes of classic cyberpunk with plausible theories of scientific advance and its impact on society, Wayne creates what might be labelled hard weird. In addition to the household gene manipulation that drives Nio’s initial investigation, Wayne offers an engaging perspective on other science-fiction staples such as AI freedom and cloning. While these challenges to the idea of human mind or soul being special could provoke a reader into wondering what “alive” or “human” mean, the novel doesn’t set out authoritative answers or even attempt to push the reader toward certain conclusions, making this fiction with depth rather than a parable. Wayne’s skillful mix of human fluff and technological crunch both grounds characters’ concerns about the horrors of technology by showing the reader evidence it is possible and sets futurist speculation in a human context, amplifying the impact of both. This tension is further amplified by in-world conspiracy theories that draw on the same plausible science. The two plot threads of techno-terrorism and mysterious death are similarly well-handled, drawing on motivations and approaches common to humans throughout history while reflecting the unique possibilities for crime and investigation provided by the advances in technology. As befits crimes involving subversion of flesh and mind, some of the scenes involve visceral horror; however, this is neither gratuitous nor common, serving more to infuse realism than titillate. Where this novel might prove more divisive is in Wayne’s avoidance of inner dialogue. Rather than the frequent use of the protagonist’s thoughts common to modern fiction, Wayne relies more heavily on character actions to imply emotional reactions. Depending on reader preference, this might either add to the sense of science-driven investigation or weaken the sense of human connection. Nio is an engaging and apposite protagonist. A product of a massive genetic experiment, she embodies both the potential for exceeding “normal” human limits and the dislocation being created “special” can bring. While not something readers are likely to have experienced, her situation is eminently easy to empathise with and her reactions to challenges as realistic as the scientific foundation. The supporting cast share this blend of new experiences and capabilities, and easily accessible human drives. This adds to the sense that this future has grown from our present rather than being an abstract speculation or techno-metaphor. Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking a fast-paced thriller set in an intriguing and gritty near-future world. I received a free copy from the author with no request for a review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dirk Reul

    The imaginative worldbuilding, the complex characters and the sheer scope that’s both shown and at time hinted at, reveal a world that both breathtaking and scary. Concepts we imagine today have become reality for the people living here. For some, they’ve become nightmares. I can’t reveal too much without spoiling the plot but I can highly recommend this new near future story by Rick. If you enjoy new weird and science fiction then this is going to take you on a wild ride.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marius Piedallu van Wyk

    Loved the attention to detail!

  5. 4 out of 5

    MARK A

    Rick is an intelligent and thoughtful writer. The Zero Signal is just more of what makes his writing great. It's well-paced and does one of the most important things in writing. It shows you, not tells you what's happening. A difficult task only the most talented writers can manage. But in this case, Rick knocks it out of the park. His descriptive writing makes the setting one of the characters if that makes sense. You can relate to it, understand it, and visualize it as if you were there. The d Rick is an intelligent and thoughtful writer. The Zero Signal is just more of what makes his writing great. It's well-paced and does one of the most important things in writing. It shows you, not tells you what's happening. A difficult task only the most talented writers can manage. But in this case, Rick knocks it out of the park. His descriptive writing makes the setting one of the characters if that makes sense. You can relate to it, understand it, and visualize it as if you were there. The dialogue between the characters is also something special. Each conversation not only advances the plot but also opens a window into the characters themselves. The natural way characters interact with each other, even in the more fantastic scenes, is just very believable and it's really easy to become attached to them. I don't want to get into the plot too much but this is a mashup of unlikely genres that really works well. It takes a mid-west rural setting in the near future and adds in a cyberpunk/bio-punk element that is unique but also just seems natural. It asks questions you never thought to ask and then answers them in a satisfying way. I really hope he continues to write more stories in this setting. It's honestly the type of storyline HBO or Netflix would do well to pick up and turn into a series.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Rick Wayne creates a new genre with the introductory novel of his Science Crimes Division series. A cross between cyberpunk and classic mystery, this thriller drags you into the seamy side of technology in the pursuit of a merciless killer. Set in a near future where everyone has access to science, Nio Tesla pursues the truth behind her brother's death with an FBI Agent in tow. Rick Wayne creates a new genre with the introductory novel of his Science Crimes Division series. A cross between cyberpunk and classic mystery, this thriller drags you into the seamy side of technology in the pursuit of a merciless killer. Set in a near future where everyone has access to science, Nio Tesla pursues the truth behind her brother's death with an FBI Agent in tow.

  7. 5 out of 5

    D

    I liked it. I followed the author on anti-social media before I knew they were an author because of what they were posting and because of his unspeakably cute BMD, who's more popular on twitter than he is, and subsequently read both the preview and a draft of the book. I'll be reading the next book in the Science Crimes series, for sure. Some of the story components are hard to portray as action, so there are occasional stretches of dialog, with a few well-considered portrayals of mass media (whi I liked it. I followed the author on anti-social media before I knew they were an author because of what they were posting and because of his unspeakably cute BMD, who's more popular on twitter than he is, and subsequently read both the preview and a draft of the book. I'll be reading the next book in the Science Crimes series, for sure. Some of the story components are hard to portray as action, so there are occasional stretches of dialog, with a few well-considered portrayals of mass media (which I like: think Stand on Zanzibar). It was always very well researched, and I learned of some well-documented, jaw-droppingly bad behaviors of government intelligence agencies that I had not heard before, and it supported the story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Josias

    This book is incredibly engaging and imaginative. The world includes many things that could easily happen in the near future, as well as some wacky things that keep the imagination running. AI, gene editing, and human mods make for an intriguing future. The author understands the world he made very well, and engages us in it intuitively. The story also presents several philosophical issues, such as the ethics of surveillance used for good and bad, and the nature of reality. I found that particula This book is incredibly engaging and imaginative. The world includes many things that could easily happen in the near future, as well as some wacky things that keep the imagination running. AI, gene editing, and human mods make for an intriguing future. The author understands the world he made very well, and engages us in it intuitively. The story also presents several philosophical issues, such as the ethics of surveillance used for good and bad, and the nature of reality. I found that particularly enjoyable. Several interesting tidbits are inserted throughout the book that make you think. I was put off by the language. The excessive profanity made it hard to read at times. This is the only reason I'd be hesitant to recommend it to those in my circles. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the rest of the Science Crimes Division.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sirmacik

    It takes a minute to get used to Rick's style of writing, but he really paints a picture and puts you right there in the middle. With a hunger for more at the end. It takes a minute to get used to Rick's style of writing, but he really paints a picture and puts you right there in the middle. With a hunger for more at the end.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This book feels different. Some people said it's weird but I didn't think so. More like quirky. It's science fiction, but it almost feels like it could happen tomorrow. It seems real. Like there's no Star Trek babble. Lots of stuff happens that stretches the realm of the possible, but it's all based on real science (as far as I can tell). The characters also seem very real. There's lots of dialog, which is how most of the mystery is explained, but it feels like you're listening to people talking This book feels different. Some people said it's weird but I didn't think so. More like quirky. It's science fiction, but it almost feels like it could happen tomorrow. It seems real. Like there's no Star Trek babble. Lots of stuff happens that stretches the realm of the possible, but it's all based on real science (as far as I can tell). The characters also seem very real. There's lots of dialog, which is how most of the mystery is explained, but it feels like you're listening to people talking rather than reading a story. I liked Nio but I didn't love her and I think that's why. I wasn't in her head, more like rooting from the sidelines. But the parts with her "family" were really touching in an unexpected way. In fact its worth a read for that alone. I don’t think it's the best book of the year, but it was fun (and fast) and I found myself thinking about it a couple days later, which is why I gave it five stars (and why I've edited this review three times). It's rare these days that a science fiction book actually makes me think, even though supposedly that's what they're supposed to do. Good for people who enjoy gritty thrillers and thoughtful mysteries.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mysterioso

  12. 4 out of 5

    Teresa Benson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik Casenberg

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

  15. 5 out of 5

    Frithnanth

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  17. 5 out of 5

    Juan Pablo

  18. 4 out of 5

    Divya

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul Shotts

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike Hurt

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vapaem

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brynn Chleirich

  23. 5 out of 5

    Luke Shiras

  24. 5 out of 5

    Readit Book

  25. 4 out of 5

    Reshmi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hux Bear

  27. 5 out of 5

    Baheda

  28. 5 out of 5

    Zhang Dianli

  29. 5 out of 5

    Simon Vince

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Bibb

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jinn Koriech

  32. 5 out of 5

    Angélica Chacón

  33. 4 out of 5

    Chuy Ruiz

  34. 4 out of 5

    Jeanny

  35. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  36. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

  37. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

  38. 4 out of 5

    Tegan

  39. 5 out of 5

    Rob Loranger

  40. 5 out of 5

    Ilyanna

  41. 5 out of 5

    Jon Stone

  42. 4 out of 5

    Steven

  43. 4 out of 5

    Becky Soto

  44. 5 out of 5

    Sara Forrester

  45. 5 out of 5

    David

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