Book Review: Zero World by Jason M. Hough

A review copy was provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Zero WorldZero World by Jason M. Hough

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of Zero World

Publisher: Del Rey (8/18/15)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

How do I know when a book has got its hooks in me? I read the digital ARC of Zero World from NetGalley which actually ends at 78% with the rest of it being bonus material. Of course, I had no idea of this going in and didn’t find out until I hit the Acknowledgements page. Having expected this unbelievably gripping story to go on for about a hundred more pages – then having that expectation cruelly ripped away from me – my resounding wail of “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” probably could have been heard from all the way down the street. As you can imagine.

Seriously, what can I say about this book that would do the sheer ingenuity of its premise justice? It’s like James Bond meets Memento meets an episode of Star Trek. Let’s just say the tagline of Zero World – “This will be the most interesting mission you’ll ever forget” – serves its story well, a promise of adventure and thrilling action packed into those ten simple words.

The story follows biologically enhanced secret agent Peter Caswell, who undertakes every single operation he gets with a clean conscience – literally. With the help of an implant surgically melded into his brain, he never remembers his missions; everything from dossier details to the number of people killed while he is in the field always gets thoroughly wiped from his mind upon completion. In many ways, he is the perfect superspy. And now he’s embarking on his most dangerous and secretive assignment yet, one that will take him beyond reality into another world entirely.

After passing through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space, Caswell finds himself on an Earth eerily like his own. A lot of is the same but so much more is different, and in this alien yet familiar world, our protagonist must track and kill his quarry before irreparable damage can be done. To his surprise, Caswell receives help from an unexpected source in the form of Melni, an undercover agent on this mirror world who is also seeking the same target, but for very different reasons than his own.

If you enjoyed Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle, picking up this book is a no-brainer. This is without a doubt his most exciting and ambitious work yet. The author’s penchant for rich world building and writing about incredibly innovative tech has always impressed me, but what I love about his science fiction is the fact that it’s also so accessible. Zero World blends futuristic elements with the best parts of the spy thriller genre to great success; the story captured my attention from the get go and it never relented with its nail-biting suspense. There were some pretty huge twists around the midway point too, leading to staggering implications for the plot and the characters. Add the seemingly insurmountable obstacles for our protagonists into the equation, and you can see why this novel kept me reading well into the wee hours of the night.

The team of Caswell and Melni is also a very unique and enjoyable partnership, one in which each of their participation is refreshingly equal. It’s always interesting to read about characters from different worlds meeting for the first time and their eventual teaming up, and I had a very good time following their exploits and watching the interplay between their personalities. Melni fascinated me with her loyalty to her organization and their cause, despite being looking down upon and treated like a foreigner by her own people. Caswell is an even bigger enigma, given how integrated he is with his implants. I have to wonder, can his attitude towards the morality of his actions be simply chalked up to denial, or might it be tied up in something much bigger? Hough’s subtle probing into the complexities of the human psyche surprised me a bit here, but I liked the depth it gave to his characters.

There’s actually some irony in the fact that Peter Caswell can’t remember his missions, because I think his adventures in Zero World are sure to stick with me for a long time. Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book and didn’t want it to end, and I believe I’ve already made those feelings glaringly clear in my opening paragraph. I despaired when I turned the page and realized the book was over. Can you tell I’m desperate for the sequel? Be sure to check out this novel if you enjoy your sci-fi thrillers filled with adrenaline rushes and high-energy action sequences; I promise you won’t be disappointed.


16 Comments on “Book Review: Zero World by Jason M. Hough”

  1. I hate when there’s a sample at the end and at 78% yeah I can see why you were upset!

    I’ve been looking for a book to get me back into sci-fi and the world building and spy thriller makes this sound good. I’m not sure I like him forgetting everything though. Will he even remember any of this in the next book?


  2. Yes, everything you said!! And we need to make sure this book does well, because the publisher hasn’t even given the go ahead for the sequel (according to the author).


  3. Nooooooooo. Haha. Well, you wouldn’t be protesting so strongly if you hadn’t loved it so it’s all good. I haven’t picked up on this one but I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.
    Thanks for a great review.
    Lynn 😀


    • Definitely one of those moments where I prefer print books to ebooks. I’d like to think with a print book, I would have happened on the end and noticed the bonus materials/excerpts 🙂


  4. He is an assassin in a near future where glandular implants enhance his skills and memory wipes ensure he won’t have to live with the guilt over the people he’s killed — or be troubled by ethical dilemmas. By 50 pages in I was thinking — this is going to be one of the best books of the summer!


  5. Pingback: #RRSciFiMonth: Mogsy’s Top 10 Sci-Fi Reads of 2015 | The BiblioSanctum

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