“Zeroes” by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

I was super excited when I got approved to read Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld (at the time I didn’t realise it had other authors as well, because his name is displayed much more prominently). Since I joined NetGalley I’ve mostly been reading books by authors I’ve never heard of, so to be able to have a pre-publication peek at something by an author I like was exciting.

Okay, I reviewed Demon Road as well. That’s true. I forgot about that.


Publication date: September 29th, 2015.

Anyway. Zeroes is a book about superheroes. I’m a fan of those. I suck at reading books with pictures because I just get confused, not being a particularly visual person, so I don’t read a lot of graphic novels. If they were just books, though, I would. I like the idea of people having special powers, and how they choose to use them.

It was reasonably engaging in the sense that I cared quite a bit about the characters, but at the same time, I didn’t click with any of them in particular. Probably this was because there were a lot of them, and also because I wasn’t having a great day (that makes a big difference).

However, it was also because of the way the story was set up, which meant that the characters’ histories together and individually existed primarily off-screen. They happened the previous year, and while we gradually learn more about them, I still felt like I was missing something. At one point I even had to check that the book wasn’t a sequel, because I definitely felt like there was backstory I wasn’t grasping. Because of this confusion, it took me a while to get into the story.

I liked the way different voices were used to tell the story, and how different perspectives gradually came into play. I also really liked the superpowers themselves, because they were different from those I’ve come across before. For example, Thibault (known as Anonymous to the other Zeroes) is forgettable to other people, allowing him to get away with things others couldn’t. Ethan, the first character we meet, has what he calls ‘the voice’, which speaks for him at times, spewing information he couldn’t possibly know — getting him both in and out of trouble.

There was definitely an emphasis more on emotional powers rather than flashy fighting skills, and I found that made the story much more original.

I’m not sure if it was merely that I was having a bit of a bad day that I found it so hard to get into the story: I think it did raise too many questions at the beginning and give too few answers until quite a long way into the book, but by the time I reached the end, I was invested in what happened, and there’s an explosive scene that kept me absolute gripped — I sped through it to find out what happened.

So I had a slightly mixed response, which was disappointing. However, this may well have been me, and not the book. I sometimes find that — my own mood is a far larger influence on my enjoyment of a book than it has any right to be. But I never claimed my ratings were anything other than hugely subjective, thus I’m giving this three stars.

Rating: ***

Buy ‘Zeroes’ on Amazon (UK)

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