In I’m So Hacked, a regular worker in a software company by day, @v! moonlights as a hacker. He takes sadistic pleasure in “hacking” people; not just their computer, but their very being.
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Every twitch, every minute facial expression is a clue and @v! prides himself on being able to hack people with ease. Despite his secret hobby, he lives a life full of discontent, surrounded by fakes, perverts, and fools. All of this changes when he is contacted by the mysterious M@dR1. Suddenly, he is drawn into a revolution, a war against the evil prevalent in the world.
Welcome to Gautam Mayekar’s novel about a corrupt society and the young anarchist who seeks to change the world order.
Plot and Narration
The story follows a former soldier who takes up a job in a software company. He feels jaded and cynical, refusing to form bonds with his co-workers, whom he regards with unhealthy disdain. His monotonous routine changes when he receives a letter from a mysterious revolutionary who goes by the name of M@dR1 and wears the face of one of @v!’s former comrades.
The book starts with a prologue that serves as a tantalising appetizer. Suspense is built up through the first half, and the reader gets a clear picture of what’s happening only in the next. This slow build-up drags for much of the first half, so it is difficult to will yourself to continue reading. Only the prologue reminds one of the more interesting reveals, to help you push past the boring bits and read further.
! Spoiler alert!
Depiction of Mental Illness
The book rests on the well-worn plot device of using multiple personality disorder, paranoia and schizophrenia as the reason behind horrible crimes. You realise this fact only halfway through the book, although there are hints sprinkled throughout.
Maybe it was not intentional, but portraying mental health issues as something that turns people into villains, is dangerous in a world where there is already so much stigma attached to these issues. This book will probably join the long list of literature and movies and TV shows that contribute to this stereotyping.
Although it’s a trope that has been used for time immemorial, and admittedly works well as a plot point, it’s time we see different renditions of mental health. It is not a problem that the character struggles with his mental health very visibly in the book. In fact, that obvious struggle being depicted, and knowing that the protagonist of a book is like them, may actually be encouraging to readers with similar problems. However, the fact that @v!’s mental health is almost directly responsible for his villainy just kind of rubs the wrong way.
The majority of the book focuses on the protagonist himself. Other characters are mentioned in passing, but none are very fleshed out. The love interests only have “name, attractive, nice, works at so-and-so place” as their personality traits (which is more like the details you would fill in a government form rather than a character profile).
Apart from @v! and M@dR1, none of the other characters are remotely memorable. Granted, these two are the focus of the story, but if characters are introduced, they need to have some – dare I say it – character.
One line in this book actually spoke volumes about the potential of the plot, had it just veered slightly in a different direction. In one of his impassioned speeches to @v!, M@dR1 mentions that he believes @v! to be Kalki, the avatar of Krishna that Hindu scriptures say would wipe the earth clean of evil. A scriptural apocalypse of sorts.
Now an apocalyptic scenario has been explored from various angles in literature and other art forms. The Hunger Games spoke of a dystopian future post a horrible war, War of the Worlds talks of hostile alien invasions, movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow depict an apocalypse brought on by environmental issues, etc.
However, all of these scenarios talk of scenarios beyond our control, of some event that “happens” to humans. None of them talks about one single human causing the apocalypse, by something as part of our daily lives as hacking. That line in the book showed that had the book gone in this direction, it could have become a much grander story, with the potential to become a series. An apocalyptic scenario caused by one man who sends the world into anarchy.
Writing and grammar is possibly the biggest issue. There are several instances where the writer has included a word in a sentence where it has no place. For example, the word “transgressed” has been used in a sentence where the author was clearly looking for a word that meant “enamoured” or “engrossed.” These are mistakes the editor should have easily caught and it’s flaws in the publishing process.
While the story idea is pretty good, the writing is sloppy, and a stretched-out first hand. The characters are barely fleshed out, and largely unmemorable and unrelatable. The story had potential, but the author and the publisher/editor should have worked together to properly structure and flesh out the story in a way that it would seem more like a cohesive book (or series) rather than a rushed NaNoWriMo product.
“You are the creator, you are the saviour, you are Lord Krishna’s tenth avatar. You are Kalki.”
Final Verdict – The story is interesting and has potential. If you can push yourself past the slow build-up of the first half, the second half should be more attention-grabbing.
*Purple Pencil Project received this copy from the publishers. This has not affected the book review in any way.