Holy cow. I hesitate to call this the best book I’ve read this year, but Zero Echo Shadow Prime will definitely fall into my best of the year list. I’d been recommended the book a few months ago and it piqued my interest, but I forgot about it until a friend told me it was out. I quickly snatched it up and spent every free moment reading this book from yesterday afternoon, evening, and then this morning when I finished. I was relentless as I worked to finish this amazing book.
Mr. Samet has outdone himself with his debut novel. While the plot isn’t the same, I had some of the same feelings and emotions I had when I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. (To tell you how much I love RPO, I currently re-read it AT LEAST once a year.) I loved it, no if’s, and’s, or but’s.
So you might be asking – what is this book about? Zero Echo Shadow Prime is a novel about one character…or is it four…or a billion? My head is frankly still spinning a little from all the different aspects of this story, but to boil it down, ZESP is Charlie’s story. Charlie (short for Charlotte) is an 18-year-old woman who has created the world’s first Shadow (personal assistant in a way) to pass the Turing Test. Alan (obviously named after Turing) is a technological marvel, but Charlie has a problem. Cancer is stripping her of life until her father and a business associate named Jude offer a solution.
Next thing you know, Charlie’s story is now four separate tales. There is Charlie Original Recipe, called ZERO; Charlie the so-called zombie surrogate, a robotic body called PRIME; Charlie as her own version of a SHADOW, stripped of memories; and Charlie in a world with a billion other versions of herself, an ECHO.
It could have been dizzying to keep up with these four stories, but Samet does an excellent job keeping the stories separate, but at the same time drawing them all together. There is so much great story here, starting off the book with a bang with the story of Four Arms, an ECHO version of Charlie as she is forced to fight and kill (almost Hunger Games-style) in order to survive. Around each corner, however, there are twists and turns that leave you breathless, wondering how Samet came up with all this.
But even apart from all the action, this book really offers some intriguing questions. What exactly is a human? Is it just flesh and bone or is there something more? If a person was able to move their consciousness to a computer, is there a spark of humanity there?
With the new movie Transcendence coming out soon, these are all fascinating questions and ones that don’t have easy answers with the new world that we are embarking upon.
My recommendation – GO BUY THIS BOOK. NOW.
You won’t regret it.