Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Silence of Six

The Silence of Six

E.C. Myers
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
Adaptive Books, 2016   ISBN: 978-0986448416

Several years ago Max and his geek friend Evan began exploring how internet security works, how to protect themselves from being hacked, and then how to expose weaknesses in other people’s security systems. They became hackers but never damaged any of the places that they broke into. In fact, they told the companies that they hacked into where their defenses were weak. It was a game for a while, until the hacks became more serious, and potentially more dangerous. Max decided that he wanted to get out. What they were doing was scaring him, and he wanted to retreat to have a more ‘normal’ life. Evan respected Max’s decision and for some months Max devoted much of his time to soccer practice, school, and his new girlfriend. He and Evan did not see each other or get in touch much.

Then Max started getting messages from Evan, and then there was even a phone message, which was really strange because Evan does not trust voicemail. Though this behavior should have got Max’s attention, he was so busy that he did not respond.

Now Max is attending a presidential debate that is taking place at his school. Dressed in a jacket and tie Max cannot help feeling a least a little excited about being in such close proximity to two famous politicians, one of whom will be the next President of the United States. Before the debate begins Max gets another text from Evan and in it Evan asks him for his help. For some reason this message gets Max’s attention, and he begins to wonder where Evan is.

The debate begins and all goes well until the last question is aired. The audience quickly realizes that this question is not a pre-recorded, carefully screened, video. Instead it is live. A person wearing a mask and a hoodie announces that his name is STOP. Max is horrified. STOP is Evan’s online handle. What is his friend doing? STOP then goes on to ask his question: “What is the silence of six and what are going to do about it?” STOP then apologizes, reaches for a gun and shoots himself in the head in front of the camera.

Max is appalled by what he has seen, and at the same time he is desperate to find out what Evan’s question means. When cell phones stop working soon after the video is aired, Max realizes that someone, presumably the Feds who are swarming all over the school, is jamming all the phone signals. They don’t want anyone on the outside to know what has happened. Then the Feds take away everyone’s phones before they leave the school, which means that it won’t be long before they find Evan’s text messages on Max’s phone. Max is pretty sure that it won’t be long before the Feds will be seeking him out to question him.

Max visits Evan’s house and finds out that there has been a break in. The strange thing is that though the place has been ransacked, none of the nice and expensive things in the house have been taken, except for Evan’s computers, and his external hard drives and memory cards. Max looks around Evan’s room, which is when he discovers that his friend left something for him hidden behind a poster on his wall. It is a keycard, but Max has no idea what the keycard is for.

It soon becomes clear that the Feds are indeed after Max so he leaves home and goes to public places to connect to the internet. He visits a hacker gathering site online that he used to be a member of, hoping that someone there will know what Evan was up to and what “the silence of six is.” Max is shocked to find out that the members of the group are all part of Dramatis Personae, an infamous hacktivist group. He also learns that in addition to Evan, three of members of Dramatis Personae are missing, which seems more than a little suspicious.

One person on the site, a hacker called DoubleThink, gets in touch privately, saying that he knew Evan and that he and Max need to meet up in the real world.

Max sets off to meet DoubleThink in Roseburg, Oregon. Driving a car that he hacked into and ‘borrowed,’ he gets to the meeting place, a Denny’s restaurant, and soon enough DoubleThink turns up. Max is shocked to find out that DoubleThink is a she and that she knew Evan pretty well. It turns out that Evan set things up so that his two friends would meet, giving them both just enough clues to get them to connect. Clearly he wants them to figure out what he was investigating, what “the silence of six” is. Even though he knows he is danger, Max follows Evan’s clues, wanting desperately to finish what his friend started. Perhaps, doing so will mean that Evan’s death wasn’t for nothing.

Max never dreams that his friend’s quest will lead him to discover that a terrible plan is being put in place that will threaten the privacy of millions of people around the world. It is a plan people are willing to even kill to protect.

This gripping thriller takes readers into the hidden world of hacktivism. They will be forced to consider what their privacy means to them. What kinds of causes are we willing to die for, and how far should we go to fight back against those who want to spy on every aspect of our lives? The choices Max and his allies have to make are difficult ones, and readers will appreciate the courage he has to summon up to follow in the footsteps of his friend.