By AJ Colucci
Nate Kenyon brings us his latest novel, DAY ONE. A three-time Bram Stoker Award finalist and P&E Horror Novel of the Year award winner, Nate’s books have received starred reviews from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and BOOKLIST. Two of his novels, THE REACH and SPARROW ROCK, have been optioned for film.
Nate has written several novels for Blizzard Entertainment’s bestselling videogame franchises, including STARCRAFT GHOST: SPECTRES and DIABLO III: THE ORDER. He has had dozens of stories published in magazine and anthologies including SHROUD MAGAZINE, MONSTROUS, HORROR WORLD, DEAD LINES, THE HARROW, HORROR LIBRARY, THE MONSTER’S CORNER and the upcoming DARK DUETS. You can visit him on his website.
DAY ONE introduces us to scandal-plagued hacker journalist John Hawke, who is hot on the trail of the explosive story that might save his career. James Weller, the former CEO of giant technology company Eclipse, has founded a new start-up, and he’s agreed to let Hawke do a profile on him. But after he arrives in Weller’s office in New York City, a seemingly normal day quickly turns into a nightmare as anything with an Internet connection begins to malfunction. Soon Hawke and a small band of survivors are struggling for their very lives as they find themselves thrust into the middle of a war zone—with no obvious enemy in sight.
The bridges and tunnels have been destroyed. New York City is under attack from a deadly and brilliant enemy that can be anywhere and can occupy anything with a computer chip. Somehow Hawke must find a way back to his pregnant wife and young son. Their lives depend upon it . . . and so does the rest of the human race.
“This is a highly imaginative thriller with solidly built characters…Exciting and inventive stuff.”
—BOOKLIST (starred review)
“After reading this book you’re never going to look, touch, or treat your computer (or anything with a smart chip in it) the same way again. You’ll always wonder: is this Day One?”
—Steve Berry, #1 international bestselling author of THE JEFFERSON KEY and THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR
“DAY ONE will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. A terrifying one-stop read, written by one hell of a storyteller!”
—Tess Gerritsen, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of LAST TO DIE
Nate Kenyon comes out swinging with DAY ONE, a powerhouse of a thriller. Scary, eerily plausible and lightning fast. Highly recommended!”
—Jonathan Maberry, bestselling author of EXTINCTION MACHINE
Nate was kind enough to give us some insight into his new novel and some of his writing techniques in the interview below.
DAY ONE has gotten great reviews and has been lauded for being both chilling and plausible. What inspired the story?
I’ve always been fascinated by artificial intelligence. The possibilities are nearly endless, and they include both the idyllic and horrific visions of the future. My editor at Thomas Dunne is fascinated too—he approached me first with the idea of a man commuting into New York who gets caught in the city as all hell breaks loose, and has to fight his way out. We brainstormed on this for a while, brought in another fantastic editor, Peter Joseph, for his opinions, and I ran with the concept from there. That’s where DAY ONE was born.
As an author of science thrillers, I know the genre requires an enormous amount of research. Can you tell us what subjects you investigated and some of the methods you used?
What I found scared the heck out of me. First of all, let me say that a true artificial intelligence, one that learns and thinks in a very human way, is most definitely coming—probably within the next twenty years. Many, many companies such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and others, as well as the US government, have created well-funded think tanks to build such a system. Universities are hip deep in research too. It’s going to happen, and the implications are frankly terrifying–because while billions are being spent in research, very little thinking is being done around safeguarding it.
An AI that can learn on its own and has the capability to become many times as intelligent as a human being (they call this artificial super intelligence, or ASI) might decide that humans are no longer required. It might decide that we are more valuable as organic building blocks than in our present state. Even if we build the preservation of human life as a core part of AI programming, it may simply decide to reprogram itself. The fact is, we don’t know WHAT it might do. And that’s a very scary thing.
But back to your original question: AI is already all around us—in our smart phones, our web browsers, cars, government systems, weapons–everywhere you turn there’s a program attempting to learn, to adapt, to predict behaviors. I started with research into current systems and then spoke to experts about how a true thinking, learning, creative AI might be born. There are several different approaches, but quantum computing seemed to make the most sense. From there I looked into what companies and non-profits are working on it and what might come out of these projects. I spoke to hackers about how an online system might be compromised, and how hackers operate in general. I needed to learn a lot about that community, which exists in the shadows and can be difficult to pin down. The implications there are pretty scary too. It’s incredibly easy to do major damage to our online infrastructure in this country. Our power grids, communication systems, transportation, oil and gas lines—all of them can be hacked and controlled remotely.
John Hawke is a man with both admirable qualities and flaws. Can you give us some insight into his psyche?
Hawke is a very driven man who is haunted by some of the decisions he made when he was younger. He’s got a problem with authority, and he likes to live his life the way he chooses. He also has this almost supernatural nose for the story, a drive to get at the truth at any cost, which serves him well as a journalist (it also, however, gets him into a lot of trouble). His checkered past has come back to haunt him again and again, and he’s determined not to make the same mistakes again—but of course he’s going to be pushed into doing things he might regret before DAY ONE is over.
At the end of the day, though, Hawke is a family man who will do anything to save his wife and young son. He’s got a strong sense of right and wrong—on his terms, of course. But he wants to do the right thing in the end.
Have you always been attracted to the darker side of storytelling?
Yes, I think so. I suffered some trauma in the loss of my parents when I was young, and I think it definitely influenced the man I became and the kind of writing I wanted to do. I’m fascinated by the darker side of human nature too—what makes people do what they do. Human beings have such a capacity for both cruelty and kindness—and great fiction makes use of both, I think.
Character, plot, dialogue, suspense and action are all important elements of a thriller. Is there one aspect of writing that you find the most challenging?
I think plotting is a challenge, particularly in writing thrillers. There’s a certain momentum to the story that you want to create, but at the same time, my natural tendency is to build slowly, explore the characters’ minds and back stories, and create the payoff down the road. In a thriller that can be tough. With DAY ONE, I tried to keep the plot moving very fast, and from feedback so far I think I succeeded in creating the kind of pace I wanted.
What can we expect from your next book?
I just finished the next DIABLO III novel, which will be out sometime next year. After that, I’m going to dive into one of two concepts I’ve been developing—I’m still not quite sure which to write first, but they both are really exciting to me. I just have to see which calls out the loudest! This is the best times for me during the writing process, when a novel begins, and the possibilities are endless. The right story is waiting for me, and it’s my job to bring it into the light.
Nate Kenyon is a three-time Bram Stoker Award finalist and P&E Horror Novel of the Year award winner. His novels have received starred reviews from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and BOOKLIST. Two of his novels, THE REACH and SPARROW ROCK, have been optioned for film.
Kenyon has written several novels for Blizzard Entertainment’s bestselling videogame franchises, including STARCRAFT GHOST: SPECTRES and DIABLO II: THE ORDER. He has had dozens of stories published in SHROUD MAGAZINE, MONSTROUS, HORROR WORLD, DEAD LINES, THE HARROW, HORROR LIBRARY, THE MONSTER’S CORNER and the upcoming DARK DUETS
To learn more about Nate, please visit his website.