The Dark Net A novel

Benjamin Percy

Book - 2017

"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. These demons are threatening to spread virally into the real world unless they can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew: Twelve-year-old Hannah, who has been fitted with the Oculus, a high-tech visual prosthetic to combat her blindness...Lela, a technophobic journalist,... 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, b...elieves himself a soldier of the Internet, part of a cyber army akin to Anonymous. They have no idea what the Dark Net really contains."--

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Horror fiction
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2017.
Main Author
Benjamin Percy (author)
Physical Description
xii, 256 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

FIVE-CARAT SOUL, by James McBride. (Riverhead, $27.) In his debut story collection, the author of the National Book Award-winning novel "The Good Lord Bird" continues to explore race, masculinity, music and history. McBride's stories often hum with sweet nostalgia, and some even dispatch a kind of moral. THE APPARITIONISTS: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln's Ghost, by Peter Manseau. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27.) Manseau's expedition through the beginnings of photography and its deceptions is a primer on cultural crosscurrents in mid-19th-century America. GIRL IN SNOW, by Danya Kukafka. (Simon & Schuster, $26.) Danya Kukafka's bewitching first novel spins a spell of mournful confession around a "Twin Peaks"-like centerpiece. In Kukafka's capable hands, villainy turns out to be everywhere and nowhere, a DNA that could be found under the fingernails of everybody's hands. DUNBAR, by Edward St. Aubyn. (Hogarth, $26.) In this latest entry in Hogarth's series of contemporary reimaginings of Shakespeare's plays, "King Lear" is recast as a struggle for control over an irascible father's corporate empire. St. Aubyn's version, not unlike the play itself, turns out to be a thriller. THE POWER, by Naomi Alderman. (Little, Brown, $26.) In the future of this fierce and unsettling novel, the ability to generate a dangerous electrical force from their bodies lets women take control, resulting in a vast, systemic upheaval of gender dynamics across the globe. BLACK DAHLIA, RED ROSE: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America's Greatest Unsolved Murder, by Piu Eatwell. (Liveright, $26.95.) An account of the brutal killing of a beautiful young woman that also delves into the broader culture of postWorld-War-II Los Angeles. "Her story," Eatwell writes, became "a fable illustrating the dangers posed to women" by Hollywood. AFTER THE ECLIPSE: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search, by Sarah Perry. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27.) This memoir moves swiftly along on parallel tracks of mystery and elegy, as Perry searches through the extensive police files pertaining to her mother's murder, when Perry was 12. THE DARK NET, by Benjamin Percy. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.) The fate of the world in Percy's novel depends on the ability of a motley gang of misfits to head off the satanic forces emanating from the murkiest recesses of the internet. GHOST OF THE INNOCENT MAN: A True Story of Trial and Redemption, by Benjamin Rachlin. (Little, Brown, $27.) Rachlin writes about Willie Grimes, imprisoned for 24 years for a sexual assault he did not commit, in this captivating, intimate profile. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 30, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review

In this fast-paced demonic cyber-thriller, Percy has a sinister take on the deepest parts of our digital lives: much of who we are as living, breathing humans is actually being infiltrated by every device we touch. Anxiety and fear are set up from the opening pages as we are quickly introduced to a ragtag group of misfit heroes: Hannah, a young blind girl getting brand new technology that will allow her to see; Lela, her technophobic reporter aunt; Mike, a homeless-shelter manager; and Cheston, a computer hacker with a nefarious employer. They discover that strange happenings all stem from the founding of the Internet, and that this foundation is laid upon the backs of ancient demons who have been interfering with mankind for millennia. Dark Net can get gruesome, and the body count is high, but Percy keeps it suspenseful and compelling from the first page. The authentic Portland, Oregon, setting with a pivotal scene in Powell's Bookstore is also a draw. Think twice before accessing this on an e-reader, unless you think can handle the extra layer of terror.--Spratford, Becky Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

An unlikely group of misfits battles supernatural evil in Percy's blend of fantasy and SF. In near-future Portland, Ore., 12-year-old Hannah is fitted with a prosthetic to allow her to overcome her incipient blindness; Lela, a work-obsessed journalist, hunts a big story in the Pearl District's blood-soaked Rue Apartments; and Mike, famed as a child for his (false) claims about near-death experiences involving Jesus and angels, tries to atone for his sins by sheltering Portland's homeless. Around them cluster a swarm of malevolent bluebottle-like spirits, which are held off by secondary characters for most of the book. Then Hannah is swept into the Dark Net, the horrific digital hell below the Deep Net that underlies the Internet, and Lela and Mike must help her save Portland from demonic possession. Percy (Thrill Me) notes in the acknowledgements that he tried to ground his novel in reality; there's an abundance of local Portland color and an overabundance of technical detail bogging down his lurid prose. Nonetheless, fans of cyberpunk and occult-flavored fiction may enjoy this outlandish nonreligious fable of good and evil. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown Ltd. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

There's a deep global net in the virtual world, accessed only by those wishing to remain anonymous. Black-market trading and illicit dealings occur here, along with programs that provide prurient services. Keeping their operations vital but nearly untraceable is the task of people who are well paid to keep these servers up and running. What happens when demonic forces acquire log-in abilities at these dark levels? Can a computer hacker, a onetime child evangelist, a technophobic journalist, and a little girl with prosthetic eyes come to grips with hell on earth if it's only a keystroke away? VERDICT Percy (The Dead Lands) turns in a fast-paced dark thriller with crisp, honest dialog and well-imagined characters. His premise is fanciful yet anchored in believability. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/17.]-Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

In Percy's (Thrill Me, 2016, etc.) techno-horror thriller, a small band of misfits must counteract a full-scale demon possession of Portland, Oregon.Below the internet we use every day lurks a violent and terrible place known as the Dark Net. This is where people come to satisfy their most destructive and perverted desires, and, according to Percy, it's naturally where demons would go when working to possess people in the 21st century. While the demons in question begin by possessing the bodies of humans in order to physically manipulate and control technology, their ultimate quest is nothing less than complete domination of the human race, to be achieved through torture and mass murder. And the only people who can stop it are a 12-year-old blind girl, two demon hunters "on the spectrum" (meaning they have supernatural tendencies of their own), and an intrepid reporter. Percy's vision rather obviously offers commentary on our contemporary lifestyle: "People fuss so much about what they eat.But they don't worry as much about what they consume online." Once the demon virus is released from the Dark Net, anyone accessing our everyday staplesNetflix, Tinder, Googlebecomes a homicidal maniac. Percy takes the darkest conspiracy theories you can imagine and makes them the stuff of nightmares. Oh, and all this happens on Halloween, "the fall climaxa time of reaping harvest, of accounting." Humankind is held responsible for its irresponsibility, paying the price for all the convenience we take for granted, for our obsession with the digital world. While the message is effective and scary, though, the characters and the writing fall short of mesmerizing. Who says science and religion are incompatible? There's something undeniably creepy about the thought that your smartphone can possess you. A gory cautionary tale. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

PROLOGUE   Hannah wasn't born blind, but sometimes it feels that way. She has retinitis pigmentosa, what she calls RP. Like, I'm so sick of this stupid RP. Which makes the disease sound like one of those jerks she goes to middle school with ​-- ​the BGs and BJs and RJs ​-- ​who talk too loudly and wear chunky basketball shoes and toss French fries dipped in mustard across the cafeteria and draw dicks on people's lockers with permanent marker.       She was diagnosed at five. She's twelve now. But she acts like she's forty. That's what everyone tells her. "An old soul," her mother says. "Stick in the mud," her aunt Lela says. If she had a smartphone, if she had boyfriends, if she hung out at Starbucks and Clackamas Center Mall, if she didn't rely on her mother's help to pick out her clothes, if she didn't prod the sidewalk with a stupid cane or wear stupid sunglasses to hide her stupid absent eyes, if she could see, maybe then she wouldn't be such a boring grump, maybe then she would act more like the rest of the giggling, perfume-bombed lunatics her age.       At first she couldn't see at night, crashing into walls on the way to the bathroom. Then her sight fogged over. Then her peripheral vision began to decrease, like two doors closing slowly, slowly, over several years, until there was only a line of vertical light with color-blurred shapes passing through it. If she held something directly in front of her face, she could get a pretty good sense of it, but one day, within the next five years or so, darkness will come. She'll live in a permanent night.       Hers was an accelerated case. And there was no cure. That was what the doctors said. So her mother prayed. And gave Hannah vitamins A and E. And restricted her intake of phytanic acids, so no dairy, no seafood. Hannah tried a dog, but she was allergic and got sick of cleaning up his crap. And she visited a school for the blind, but that felt like giving up, despite the crush of bodies at her middle school, the eyes she could feel crawling all over her while the occasional BG or BJ or RJ whispered a Helen Keller joke.       Then a doctor at OHSU approached her about an experimental trial. Would she be interested? She knew all about gene therapy and about the retinal transplants that had so far failed to develop synaptic connections with their hosts, but she didn't know about this, a prosthesis built by a Seattle-based tech company. It converted video images captured by a camera into electrical pulses that bypassed the diseased outer retina and poured into over one thousand electrodes on the inner retina. They called it Mirage.       "It's all very Star Trek ," the doctor told her, when describing the device, not glasses so much as a silver shield that wrapped your eyes. She liked his Indian accent, the buoyancy of the vowels, making his words sound as if they were gently bouncing.       Her mother worried that people would stare, and Hannah said, "They already stare." At least they'd be studying her now with awe and curiosity rather than pity. "I'll be a cyborg, a Terminator!"       Her mother could never afford the surgery ​-- ​the removal of the post subcapsular cataracts and spoke-wheel pattern of cysts, the insertion of the casing and array and antennae along the periphery of her sockets ​-- ​which didn't matter: the tech company would pay for everything, so long as she agreed to serve as their lab rat and advertisement.       Now, three weeks after she went under the knife, it is time to take off the bandages. Now it is time to wire up the Mirage. To see. The doctor tells her it might take time for her brain to process this new sensory experience. "Think of it like this. What if I gave you a new set of lungs that allowed you to breathe underwater? The first time you jumped in the river and took a deep breath, your body would fight the feeling, thinking you were drowning. There will be a little bit of that at first. A little bit of drowning. But I believe it will pass quickly."       Hannah knows the sun is a yellow ball of fire ​-- ​she can still see the smear of it ​-- ​but the image has been replaced more by a feeling of warmth that tingles the hair on her arms and makes her turn her face toward the source. Yes, a pine tree has a reddish trunk and green needles and cuts away the sky when you stand beneath it, but for her the sensory analogue is the smell of resin and the feel of scabby bark plates beneath her palm and the sound of the hushing, prickling breeze when it rushes through the branches. The ability to see has become an abstraction, something she can only vaguely imagine, like time travel or teleportation.       She sits on an exam table with the doctor leaning in and her mother hovering nearby. He tries to make small talk ​-- ​asking how's school, is she excited, will she do anything to celebrate ​-- ​but she can barely manage a response, all of her attention on the tug of his hands, the wounded ache of her eyes.       "We don't go out to restaurants very much, but we're going to one tomorrow," her mother says. "Benedikt's. For lunch. To celebrate. With my sister. She writes for the paper. Maybe you've read her articles? She writes about other people's problems, but let me tell you, she has plenty of her own. Anyway, as long as Hannah is feeling up for it, that's what we're planning."       "That's nice," the doctor says. "Almost done." Then the last bit of bandage pulls away and he says, "There."       A part of Hannah feels lighter, more buoyant, now that she's unrestricted by all that gauze and tape, but another part of her feels more panicked than ever ​-- ​as if, when he said, "There," a light switch should have turned on in her head. For now there is only darkness. Her brain churns. She can taste her breakfast in her throat.       He leans in and thumbs aside her lids and shines a light on the still-sore incisions and nudges the outlet. "Good, good. Okay. I think we're ready for Mirage."       Hannah has worn it before, more than a month ago. She ran her fingers along the shape of it then, the sleek silver shield that wrapped her eyes. But that was just playing pretend. This is real. The doctor fits it into place, tightening the band around the back of her head and neatening her hair. Two bulges, almost like the nubs of horns, swell next to each of her temples. These are the brains of the thing, a cluster of microprocessors. The right one carries the small power switch. The doctor asks if she'd like to do the honors.       She nods and blows out a steadying breath and snaps the switch.       "Well?" the doctor says.       "Hannah?" her mother says. "Did it work? Is it working?"       There is a game she sometimes plays. The wishing game. She'll say, "I'm looking forward to our trip to Costa Rica," or "I'm riding a horse across the Scottish Highlands," and then, as if a spell has been cast, an image will crystallize. She is on a white sand beach with coconuts thudding the sand and dolphins arcing from a lagoon. She is pounding across a bog, through swirling mists, while the horse kicks up divots of mud and bagpipes honk and wheeze. No matter how expensive or distant or impossible the dream, the wishing game makes anything possible.       "I can see," she says. She has said this many times before, has whispered it into her pillow and coat collar and closet, testing the words in quiet places to see if they spoil once released to the air. But this time it's true. She can see.       It is difficult for her to comprehend images, her frame of reference so far limited to her other senses. What she sees is like an echo. And inside the echo there is another voice. There is a blazing white above, and a muted white all around, through which things ​-- ​people? ​-- ​move. Her mother asks, "Can you see me? Hannah?"       She sees something, but is it her mother? It must be. But everything is mixed up. She can't forge colors with shapes or shapes with distance or distance with texture, every different input temporarily fizzling her brain, making her want to shout, "Does not compute, does not compute!" As if someone put a banana under her nose and a shark in front of her face and jazz in her ear and a broom in her hand and said, "What a beautiful sunset."       "I don't know," she says. "I can't tell what's real." Excerpted from The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.