Paxton “Pax” James is the ultimate hacker. She can do things with a computer that other geniuses just can’t. When we are first introduced to Pax she is currently trapped in Bali prison waiting to be executed for drug trafficking. Set-up by a crooked NSA agent and her supermodel coke-head ex-girlfriend, Pax finds herself in a jam that her computer wizardry can’t undo.

Dr. Emma Thorpe is the head of a shadow organization loosely tied with the NSA. Emma is one of the few people with direct access to the president. She is also leading the manhunt for a hacker, not Pax, that is not threatening the American democracy. She needs Paxton to help her take this hacker down, so busting her out of prison is top of the agenda.

My thoughts on this one are mixed. The first quarter of the book is really good. Emma’s a badass NSA agent, Paxton’s a badass hacker and you have this great story of intrigue, cyber-warfare and romance all starting to take off. Then the story in my option just becomes bogged down with ridiculous unrealistic moments. What really struck me, though, and I struggled to get past is how Emma becomes so flat and almost ineffectual as the book goes on. Paxton is almost supernatural, literally being thrown out of buildings, run over…all without the need of the emergency room or even urgent care for goodness sakes. Nope, too much at stake, she will just take a hot shower and all powers are instantly rejuvenated. I cannot tell you how many hot showers this character needed.

All the while Emma becomes unable to make decisions, she had a hard time understanding computer hacking all of the sudden and really just becomes the little women for Pax to run over and save time and time again. Why would a top NSA agent need saving from a computer geek who is still malnourished from a year in a Balinese prison? Why make her flat and ineffectual? The book would have been so much better if Pax and Emma could have equals, challenging each other all the while have a romantic relationship.

I think once the two main characters became romantically involved I mentally tapped out of this one. There just wasn’t much excitement anymore and I felt like Emma became so flat I was annoyed with her ability to be more that Paxton’s little woman. Also, the villain couldn’t have been blander if you tried. I maybe in the minority on this one but I do not think this book lives up to the hype.

2.75 out of 5 stars

Counting to Zero
by AJ Quinn


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