If the premise of Nate Kenyon’s Day One sounds familiar, it should. There are multiple stories about computers becoming sentient beings and turning on their human “masters”. Where the story excels is showing just how filled with computers our lives have become. The action set forth by John Hawke’s first inkling of the problem and his battle to get back to his family is fast, furious, predictable, but shocking at just how many computer chips humans have placed into everyday items. The list is long and quite scary because it shows just how dependent on technology humans have become. Regardless of whether one believes computers will develop sentience, it does not take a great leap of faith to imagine what devastation a terrorist with the right hacking skills could wreak upon the country.
In fact, much of Day One feels more like a terrorist plot than a doomsday story. Many of the scenes will be uncomfortably reminiscent of 9/11. The scenes in the office building are scary in and of themselves but particularly for those still haunted by the images and stories from the Twin Towers on that fateful day. Mr. Kenyon captures the feelings of impotence, chaos, fear, panic, and every other adrenaline-pumping emotion that occurred that day and siphons it into John and his little band of survivors.
The story unravels slightly as John gets closer to his apartment and the focus is less on the unseen enemy and more on what he will find at home, which a reader soon discovers has nothing to do with what he faces in the city. The urgency he feels to get home is not very well-explained. This portion of the story is very anti-climactic compared to everything else that occurs.
No one reading this type of novel should expect huge character development or even fully-realized characters. In this aspect, Mr. Kenyon does not disappoint. Even John is fairly one-dimensional, and a reader lacks the background knowledge to truly understand his motivations and fears. The rest of John’s band is practically nonexistent in their flatness, only serving the purpose to provide targets for the enemy and an audience to whom John can explain his theories. Again, novels like DAY ONE are not designed to involve any character development, so the story loses nothing by having such insipid characters.
Day One lives up to the expectation of being an entertaining but predictable doomsday novel about computers set to destroy humans. There are signs of brilliance in the creativity Mr. Kenyon shows with the insidiousness of the takeover, but that quickly fades as the story progresses down a very familiar and well-trod path of action and drama. The second plot surrounding John’s family is unnecessary and even detrimental to the overall story. None of the characters inspire much in the way of emotion, but the pacing is fast and the tension remains taut. Day One may not be award-winning literature, but it does sufficiently fill the need for interesting and mindless thrillers.