Reviewed by Brian Burmeister
The Dark Net
by Benjamin Percy
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
272 pages, August 1, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-0544750333
Our world is a scary place. In Benjamin Percy’s latest thriller, The Dark Net, we’re constantly—overwhelmingly—reminded of that. Set in present day Portland, the disturbing novel explores the dangers which lurk in the furthest, darkest, and most criminal corners of the Web.
Following the fascinating stories of a hacker, a journalist, a former child evangelist, and a twelve-year-old blind girl who has just been given the ability to see through an experimental technology, we’re introduced to a gripping, often frightening mystery which brings their story arcs together in unexpected ways.
Percy’s skill as a novelist shines throughout The Dark Net. Each of his quirky, yet believable, characters are given interesting backgrounds and compelling motivations. The story is fast-paced, action-packed, and—at more junctures than I could count—intense to a delightfully uncomfortable degree. Percy, who writes for the comic books Green Arrow and Teen Titans by DC Comics and James Bond by Dynamite Entertainment, is no stranger to ambitious, world-shattering narratives, and The Dark Net definitely delivers. The threats the characters face as they unravel the mystery pose incredible dangers to themselves, the city of Portland, and our nation.
While there is much to fear in The Dark Net, Percy’s unveiling of the reality we actually live in might keep his readers up the most. He paints a nightmarish picture of the internet’s many real vulnerabilities. Personal information. Physical infrastructure. Percy writes of the deep web where anything—drugs, weapons, even people—are bought and sold. We live in a terrifying world of infinite information and opportunities for those with the necessary skills and malicious appetites.
But The Dark Net doesn’t stop there.
Percy slowly folds into the mix elements of the supernatural. This weaving of the real dangers we face and those beyond comprehension make for a unique and often unexpected journey. For those hoping to read a tense techno-thriller, you’ll find such terror in The Dark Net. The sole caution I offer: if you’re looking for a story solely grounded in reality, Percy’s fantastical flourishes might lose you. But if you enjoy tales of the paranormal, or are simply open to them, The Dark Net should provide multi-layered, delicious horror you won’t want to put down.
About the reviewer: Brian Burmeister teaches writing and communication at Iowa State University. His writing can be found in such publications as The Feminist Wire and Thin Air Magazine, and he can be followed on Twitter @bdburmeister.