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The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

Hell on earth is only one click of a mouse away…

The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web, some use it to manage Bitcoins, pirate movies and music, or traffic in drugs and stolen goods. And now an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew:

Twelve-year-old Hannah — who has been fitted with the Mirage, a high-tech visual prosthetic to combat her blindness– wonders why she sees shadows surrounding some people.

Lela, a technophobic journalist, has stumbled upon a story nobody wants her to uncover.

Mike Juniper, a one-time child evangelist who suffers from personal and literal demons, has an arsenal of weapons stored in the basement of the homeless shelter he runs.

And Derek, a hacker with a cause, believes himself a soldier of the Internet, part of a cyber army akin to Anonymous.

They have no idea what the Dark Net really contains.

Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.

More and more of my life exists online. I’ll not deny it, I’m an information junkie. When I wake in the morning one of the first things I do is check my phone. Not for missed calls, I never get any of those. No, I’m online checking my social media feeds and looking at the news. My job primarily involves working with software applications based in the cloud. I purchase my weekly shop via an online supermarket. I consume all manner of content, entertainment and otherwise, via a host of internet channels. Hell, my hobby is even virtual. You’re reading this review on my website or on Goodreads or on Amazon for goodness sake.  The flip side to all this time saving convenience and loveliness is what is present on the underbelly of the internet. For all the good, there is so much bad. I’m sure we can all agree that there is evil in the world. You’ll have seen evidence of it no doubt. I’ve been using the web for decades now and sadly, even though I don’t seek it out, I’ve found myself confronted with it online from time to time. Benjamin Percy takes all that virtual nastiness, takes the next logical leap, and uses it for the basis of his latest novel.

Anything nasty or forbidden. Anything people don’t want other people to know about. It’s the red-light district, it’s the torture chamber, it’s digital hell.

Of the characters, I think I found Lela, the journalist, the most intriguing. Naturally sceptical, she is mistrustful of just about all modern technology. An old story of hers, regarding a notorious serial killer, has resurfaced and there appears to be something sinister going on in his old killing grounds. Lela is a tenacious sort and she is determined to find out exactly what is going on. What’s the old saying? Be careful what you wish for? Lela finds herself becoming part of the story, discovering things she has difficulty accepting as real. There is a near perfect moment during the narrative where the entire foundation of Lela’s beliefs is abruptly shattered. Her actions and reactions after that point are pitched just right.

At times, The Dark Net can be quite unrelenting and bleak. Though dark, there is something compelling about Benjamin Percy’s writing. While this is a standalone novel, I think this could easily be viewed as the beginning of a far larger story. Based on the novel’s short epilogue, there is certainly scope for exactly that. I’d love to read it.

Overall, as a horror fan and a thrall to the internet, there is something delightfully disturbing about The Dark Net. Let’s be under no illusion here, though not overtly gory, The Dark Net is most definitely horror. There is an unsettling quality to the premise. The idea that something as innocuous as the internet is being used to subvert society. At first glance The Dark Net could be viewed as nothing more than a serial killer tale with some demons thrown in for good measure, but it is so much more than that. This is a modern-day parable regarding the dangers of handing over your entire life to something you have no control over. We’re almost into the realms of John Carpenter’s They Live here

In weird moment of synchronicity, I reached page 158 of The Dark Net and read a line featuring the phrase “lose-lose situation” at the same time track 10 of Dark Ambient Electro by Anti-Social Network started to play. Its name? Lose-lose situation, of course. If that doesn’t mean this book and this soundtrack are meant to be paired with one another I don’t know what is. Sinister electronica meets sinister fiction, it’s a match made in Hell.

The Dark Net is published by Hodder and is available now. Highly recommended.

The Dark Net

Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

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