ZEROS is available in bookstores from now! Thanks to Allen and Unwin Australia for the review copy!
ZEROES is an ambitious book. A collaboration between three authors – Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti, ZEROES tells the story of six teenagers with various supernatural powers, and their struggle to come to grips with these abilities.
No author alone could hope to pen six characters, so the collaboration is both unique and highly effective. Remarkably, all three authors wrote so similarly that I could have easily attested to a single author writing everything. The characters are all very different in their actions and abilities, so the reader never gets lost between them.
Unfortunately with multiple characters, some are bound to be better than others. Personally, I found Chizara and Flickr to be the weakest characters, simply in terms of their progression through the novel. I didn’t connect with them in the same way I connected with Kelsie and Ethan; but with so many characters, and with the chapters being relatively short, it wasn’t too distracting.
Ethan (aka ‘Scam’, according to his codename), is clearly the protagonist of the book, even with the other supporting characters. His ability is to ‘scam’ – he can start talking and convince anyone of anything. He doesn’t outright lie though – his ‘voice’ actually tells the raw, unfiltered truth quite often, knowing things about people that Ethan has absolutely no knowledge about.
The other characters have similarly intriguing powers – Nate, aka Bellwether, can influence a crowd to his purpose; Chizara (Crash) can blackout electronic devices; Riley (Flickr) is blind, but can see through other people’s eyes; Thibault (Anonymous) is almost permanently ‘forgotten’ by people; and Kelsie (Mob) can change the emotions of a gathering.
The plot revolves around one innocent mistake – Ethan becoming involved in a bank robbery after stealing a bag of cash from a local thug. This escalates into a series of connected events surrounding both a Russian gang, and the teenagers’ own struggles with eachother.
Their group – the ‘Zeroes’ – has been fractured for a year since Ethan used his voice to criticize and attack them all; this incident forms a lot of the conflict, slowly revealed piece by piece as the book unfolds.
The real heart of ZEROES is the characters’ acceptance of their powers. These are not Comic-Golden-Age powers that have no consequences, but very real and ultimately dangerous superpowers with ramifications. It’s a nice play on an old concept, and works very well.
Ultimately, I found that the ending of ZEROES perfectly wrapped the book up, which makes me a little cautious of a sequel. This is the type of novel that could stand on its own – given its length, variety of characters, and a satisfying ending, I don’t see where the series could be going. I’ll be interested to read it nonetheless, and until then, I heartily recommend that you give this book a try!
Amazingly well-written characters with carefully-thought-out superpowers. A gripping narrative and satisfying conclusion.
I didn’t connect with all of the characters, and the novel’s length made me run out of steam towards the end of the back half.
An impressive collaborative novel between three clearly exceptional authors. ZEROES delivers a gritty look at heroes and superpowers – proving that everything has consequences.