The Last Hack by Christopher Brookmyre
This is the eighth book by Brookmyre featuring reporter Jack Parlabane. Expect a spoiler or two for the previous books in this review. On the other hand, if, like me, you’ve never read the previous books, then rest assured that this book can be read as a standalone.
Sam Morpeth is unstoppable. Really, she’s pretty much a superhero (or supervillain), able to go where she wants and do what she wants. Unfortunately, that super-powered persona only exists online. In real life, she is simply a 19 year old whose mother is in jail on drug charges, and who struggles to keep food on the table for herself and her little sister Lilly, who has Downs Syndrome.
But someone has connected to two halves of Sam’s life. Someone with a devious agenda, and proof of Sam’s past hacks. Blackmailed into performing an act of industrial espionage, Sam in turn forcibly recruits journalist Jack Parlabane, recently returned to the UK, to help her with the heist. As the two come to an uneasy truce, they delve into the underside of the internet in a desperate attempt to discover who is behind the sinister plot.
As I said above, this book can be read as part of its series or as a standalone novel. I was conscious of missing out on a few references here and there, but all in all not much went over my head. Perhaps it helps that the book is less about Jack Parlabane and more about the hacker Samantha Morpeth.
What is really striking about the book is the breathtaking contrast between Sam navigating her real life, and Sam, as her hacker alias Buzzkill, navigating the web. Sam in real life is meek, seeking more than anything to disappear into the background. Her life is horrible, stuck in an impossible position of needing to care for her little sister while her mother is in prison, and being denied at every turn the ability to do so. But online, Sam, as Buzzkill, can use her intelligence, imagination, and anonymity to effect real change in the world around her.
The story itself is fast-paced and technologically terrifying. I found myself getting legitimately paranoid even time I experienced any lag time on any of my electronics. While certainly a work of fiction, the book serves to remind us of how vulnerable we are now that we are all inevitably connected via the internet.
So, if you’re looking for an intelligent technological thriller (with a woman of color as the protagonist, yay!), then this book is a good fit for you!
An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.