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Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite
Annihilation: Almost: Time to Start Again by Raj paints a world that seems fairly familiar to most of us. Since the advent of computers and the world wide web, control of the globe and most of its infrastructure has fallen increasingly into the province of super-integrated digital systems, often operated remotely. If we had any illusions of privacy, the revelations of Edward Snowden shattered them. Drone strikes are navigated across continents, and money and information can travel around the world with a few keystrokes. The convenience, however, is countered by the theoretical vulnerability of these systems and, in the light of this, our imaginations have created increasingly darker visions of governments or terrorists gone too far in their quest for ultimate control. In this case, the story poses the possibility of one such digital apocalypse and just how far it could all go down the tubes. Events are told through the eyes of a gifted hacker turned vigilante turned government resource.
The idea of a super-hacker taking control of the world is worth exploring, perhaps because current technological developments are galloping in that direction. Partly, it feels as if the author is using the story as a vehicle to present a future vision that could be all too real, and it definitely poses a serious warning to the earth's population on multiple levels. It would have been nice to see more details of the impact of the events described in the book on the social fabric of humanity. Most of the characters in the book seem on some level to be divorced from true engagement with their world, even as they are fighting to save it. About the only one with tangible family ties is the hacker whose aging mother lives with him. On the other hand, one could argue that it is more realistic to assume that hackers absorbed in digital struggles might not be the most astute of social commentators, and that the majority of them tend to be self-isolated loners. Nevertheless, I found Annihilation: Almost: Time to Start Again by Raj an absorbing and ultimately thought-provoking read about a possible future peril.