The Dark Net

The Dark Net

by Benjamin Percy

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Overview

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy


“Thrilling . . . one of the best Stephen King novels not written by the master himself. . . . The setup promises furious action, and Percy delivers, like [Richard] Matheson, like King. . . An awfully impressive literary performance.”—New York Times Book Review

“Masterful crafting . . . a horror story for our times.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
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. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew, including a twelve-year-old who has been fitted with a high-tech visual prosthetic to combat her blindness; a technophobic journalist; a one-time child evangelist with an arsenal in his basement; and a hacker who believes himself a soldier of the Internet.
            Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.
 
“This is horror literature’s bebop, bold, smart, confident in its capacity to redefine its genre from the ground up. Read this book, but take a firm grip on your hat before you start.”—Peter Straub

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544750333
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/01/2017
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 544,198
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author


BENJAMIN PERCY has won a Whiting Award, a Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author of the novels The Dead Lands, Red Moon, and The Wilding, two story collections, and an essay collection, Thrill Me. He also writes the Green Arrow and Teen Titans series for DC Comics. He lives in Minnesota with his family.

Read an Excerpt

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.”

Customer Reviews

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The Dark Net 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
WhisperingStories More than 1 year ago
The Dark Net was one of those books that I read the synopsis and was eager to read. Unfortunately, I got the book at the same time as I was reading another book to do with the cyber world and had to wait until I’d finished that one before I could start this one. I didn’t want to get the two muddled up. Upon starting, I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to fly through it like I thought I would. I read the first two chapters twice as I found my mind drifting whilst reading and not taking the information in. This actually happened for the next couple of chapters too, but then something clicked and I became fully emerged in the plot. I suppose when the ‘dark’ finally arrived. The book is certainly bang up to date when it comes to technology and the net. There are some techie words, but there weren’t that many that it made for uncomfortable reading. For me, the book started off slowly, a bit too slow for my liking. I also felt the start was a padded out with information that I didn’t need to know. Once it got going though the pace picked up and the book actually became very enjoyable. The main character, Lela was likeable in her own way. Yes, she wasn’t perfect and had plenty of flaws, but that’s what made her likeable for me. She was a journalist with a ‘won’t take no for an answer’ attitude. She was always looking for the next big storyline that would propel her future and status in the journalism world, especially after her career hadn’t been that full on since she help expose a local serial killer named Tusk. I also found it quite amusing how a book about technology had a technophobe as its main character. There were plenty of secondary characters too, some that were really quite interesting, like 12 year old Hannah, Lela’s niece. Some of the others did grate on me, but you can’t have a book full of characters that you will just like, there has to be a balance. The combination between the cyber world and the supernatural is perfectly executed, there are also elements of the horror and thriller genres too. If you believe in the supernatural than this could feel very real for you. It is the old cliche of good vs evil, but done in a modern day manner. If you like to read something a bit ‘out-there’ and over the top, then this is a book for you. The writing may not be perfect, but the book certainly has some great moments that are worth a read.
Myndia More than 1 year ago
First, I want to say that it has been awhile since I read this book and I’ve been remiss in reviewing, so it sort of goes without saying (though, I guess I’m saying) that my review is based more on my feelings about the book because the fine details have floated away into the ether. Therefore, no summary. Thank goodness for Goodreads, right? The most important point I would make is that I would read it again. Not like an annual reread. It isn’t a new favorite. But it was interesting enough – different enough – that I’d enjoy reading it again. While I couldn’t recount the ins and outs of the story, I can tell you that the premise is current technology meets ancient demons. Good vs. evil with evil finding more modern ways to creep into our lives and dominate. The characters were likeable, the pace was good. I always enjoy a supernatural element. I find the more fantastical something is, the easier it is to let go and sink into the story because I’m not fighting preconceived notions based on my own reality. Fantasy = unknown reality. And there is so much room for creativity when there aren’t as many rules. So, yay for that! There was a point towards the end where I felt it got a little out of hand. Or rather, it was a bit inconsistent. Kind of like going from a mainstream horror film to a B movie. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate B movies. I definitely do. It’s the transition from something supernatural but somewhat serious to something less so that bothered me. Not enough to make me put it down, and not enough to make me change my recommendation, but it’s worth noting. Mostly because it’s something that I recall six weeks after finishing it. In a nutshell, it was entertaining, had story elements that I tend to appreciate, and was a fun enough read that I’d do it again. Considering it’s been six weeks since I finished it, I’d say that’s a decent enough recommendation. Note: I received this book from the publisher. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
ReadingBifrost More than 1 year ago
The Dark Net, in theory, sounded like a great techno-thriller. Demons on the web, working their way into people’s lives through technology and ‘virtually’ unstoppable. Unfortunately the dark net hardly had any part in the story. The demons were using the dark net for their plan, but other than a few brief mentions and not very much detail at all the books namesake was tossed out the window. So much for supernatural techno-thriller based on the dark net. The first 60% of the book is spent on setting the story up. You meet a character, follow them and learn their backstory; then hop on over to another character, follow them and learn their backstory. Honestly it’s really tedious, and this is from the girl who loves characterization over anything in her books. But during that time the book is so very slow and hardly any of the plot moves forward. Then there’s our antagonist. There isn’t really a main antagonist. A couple of baddies with names pop up, and maybe toward the very end we finally see someone who could be called the ‘leader’, but none of it is ever mentioned. The story just seems like it’s in bits and pieces; as if the author pulled ideas from this story and that story and tried to make them fit together and it didn’t quite work out right. The book itself didn’t know what it was supposed to be and the characters forgot their lines and were on the wrong set and missed their cues. A downright jumbled mess.
Rocky Dutton More than 1 year ago
A brainchild between Clive Barker, Greg Bear, and Edward Lee, The Dark Net scared the hell out of me. Percy keeps at it, reinforcing this paranoid fear by doing what great horror writers of his caliber are known for: they make you believe the stories they write. If only for a moment, and that moment is more than enough. With fantastic execution, Percy slithers fragments of this horror into the reader’s subconscious, making them experience things on an imaginative level. Something you couldn’t explain. Dismiss. Ignore. However, it would be illogical of me to keep comparing certain aspects or elements of The Dark Net to other existing work, because put simply: it is nothing like your average run of the mill sci-fi horror book. Read that again. Sci-fi horror. I don’t scour the web every two minutes or delve into the vast multitude of sub-genres (horror steampunk being a new trend you’ll be seeing soon) but I’m quite certain not many mainstream novels have quite wholly embraced horror and science fiction as a combined ingredient. Naturally you’ll find a few if you look carefully enough, then again not many would risk it for the sake of juggling two very different and yet eerily similar genres (here’s looking at you, Dead Space) in the hopes of producing something that would be an instant hit. The Dark Net, from a technical perspective in regards to character development, plot, and motive, is perfect.
Rocky Dutton More than 1 year ago
A brainchild between Clive Barker, Greg Bear, and Edward Lee, The Dark Net scared the hell out of me. Percy keeps at it, reinforcing this paranoid fear by doing what great horror writers of his caliber are known for: they make you believe the stories they write. If only for a moment, and that moment is more than enough. With fantastic execution, Percy slithers fragments of this horror into the reader’s subconscious, making them experience things on an imaginative level. Something you couldn’t explain. Dismiss. Ignore. However, it would be illogical of me to keep comparing certain aspects or elements of The Dark Net to other existing work, because put simply: it is nothing like your average run of the mill sci-fi horror book. Read that again. Sci-fi horror. I don’t scour the web every two minutes or delve into the vast multitude of sub-genres (horror steampunk being a new trend you’ll be seeing soon) but I’m quite certain not many mainstream novels have quite wholly embraced horror and science fiction as a combined ingredient. Naturally you’ll find a few if you look carefully enough, then again not many would risk it for the sake of juggling two very different and yet eerily similar genres (here’s looking at you, Dead Space) in the hopes of producing something that would be an instant hit. The Dark Net, from a technical perspective in regards to character development, plot, and motive, is perfect.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
First thought when I finished early, early this morning - WOW! I had such a hard time deciding on reading this book. I loved Benjamin Percy's book "Red Moon" and was so excited to see this one offered by him. However, I was concerned with there being a lot of "geek speak". Well, there was some, but not a lot. I do remember one time when my eyes were crossing but that feeling did not last long. There was a lot of "freak speak" which I was used to in the author's other book. This suspenseful, action packed thriller had me mesmerized. I stayed up way too late to finish it. I kept putting it down to sleep. Then, I would pull it back out and read some more. I could not leave it even though my body was telling me "it will be there in the morning". A great read which I truly enjoyed! Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
SiobhanMFallon More than 1 year ago
Ben Percy remains one of our most exciting writers; whether he is tackling essays on craft or novels about demons, the man continues to electrify. The Dark Net can be read as a metaphor for modern lives becoming more and more dependent on technology, or as a freakishly creepy and edge-of-your-seat thriller. Either way, you won't be able to put it down.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
The Dark Net is the darkest corner of the internet where the evils in this world lurk. People think because they can dip their toe into it in the privacy of their house means they are safe. But they are not. Pure evil lives there and it can come to those that explore that corner of the internet. But with any dark there is light. Those that can see the evil and can fight it. This is one of those books that you can’t really classify and don’t go by the blurb, that doesn’t even begin to describe it. Hannah slowly became blind but with the Mirage device she can now see but she is seeing dark shadows around people. Her aunt is a newspaper reporter writing about serial killer Jeremy Tusk. But it’s not just him that is important, the Rue apartments also has a past. Mike Juniper that has his own past that has him stockpiling weapons for fighting demons. The techno part is that demons have been plaguing man for millennia and just as time has changed and things that draw and fascinate people changes so do the demons. It’s going to be up to those that walk the light to fight the rising dark. I really enjoyed this story, it was a great mashing of genera’s. But I admit that it didn’t flow well and had a rough ending. Having said that it was worth the read. I will definitely be checking out other books by Benjamin Percy. I received The Dark Net from the publisher for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.