Title: Zero Day
Author: S. Hussain Zaidi
Genre: Crime Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins India
No of Pages: 213
Price: Rs 299
Link for Purchase: Zero Days
Mumbai is in a state of chaos. All traffic signals across the entire city have stopped working.
Shahwaz Ali Mirza, head of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, receives an anonymous email claiming it to be a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. He quickly puts together a crack team that includes his protege, IG Cybercrime Vikrant Singh, and gets to work trawling the dark web for more information on this mystery attack. However, a move to bring forward the hacker backfires, leading to a second, deadlier attack on Mumbai’s lifeline, the railway system.
It is their first brush with cyberterrorism: a zero-day vulnerability in the Indian government’s system that could bring the country to its knees. Racing against time and investigating a case unlike any other, in Zero Day, Mirza and Vikrant face the most dangerous mission of their lives.
I have been working as an IT professional for a very long time, but I have largely been developing websites and my knowledge of cybercrime is rather limited. I have never dealt with cybercrime. Reading this book added value to my knowledge of the topic, and it also revealed to me, one of the modus operandi by which cybercriminals operate. The plot is simply superb. This book is a delight for system software engineers and hackers as its central plot is based on botnets and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service). All the technical jargon is explained with clarity and in such a way that it can be understood easily even by laypeople. This makes it possible for everyone to enjoy the book.
The book starts off at a reasonably fast pace and thereafter gathers momentum and soon becomes racy and pacy. The two instances when the antagonist uses cybercrime, to bring life in Mumbai to a complete standstill are described vividly and convincingly. The thought that cybercrime can bring an entire city or even a country down to its knees is a scary one.
The author has been working as a journalist for a long time and his writing style is inimitable. He also writes in such a way that the story is believable and sounds realistic. Writing crime fiction seems to come naturally to him. As I read the book, I found my excitement levels rising and falling rapidly every five to ten pages. The clever planning by which the antagonist is trapped into revealing his identity is very well thought out. And then we also get to know a lot about police departments, their structure, and the petty politics that is constantly haranguing them. In addition, the motivation behind the antagonist’s actions, make us understand why he does what he does. The action scenes are described well and are realistic.
From a practical perspective, the story teaches us why it is so important for laymen to follow proper procedures and keep their phones and computers malware-free. We do keep receiving warning messages from our service providers telling us not to click on links randomly, don’t we? This book tells you why that is so important. It is a scary thought that one could be a part of a cybercrime unwittingly. The romantic interlude between the male protagonist Vikrant and the female protagonist Shaina adds a pleasant touch to the story and we can feel Vikrant’s pain when Shaina is attacked.
There are a few things that could have made the book more entertaining. I felt the book was lacking stealth in certain places. Normally we expect a stealthy setting only in books belonging to the paranormal or horror genres. In this book, everything is out there and upfront. A stealthy subplot of some kind could have made the book more enjoyable. Another thing I felt was that the identity of the antagonist has been revealed a shade too early in the book. The role of the female protagonist is really limited, and I felt she could have been featured as playing a more prominent role.
Conclusion: A Big Yay! This is an eminently readable book. It is a crime thriller with a difference. It will hold your attention from start to finish.
I am going with a 4.5/5 for S. Hussain Zaidi’s Zero Day. I have cut off half a point for the reasons I have mentioned above.
This book is written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program