Phantom by Leo Hunt

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Phantom by Leo Hunt

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An exciting speculative thriller with plenty of plot twists and some cool tech that you won't find elsewhere. Sentient AIs, a world post water wars, a courageous but reckless central character come together to offer a satisfying and pacy read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: August 2018
Publisher: Orchard
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-

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Sixteen-year-old Nova is an undercity dweller and a leecher - a futuristic kind of pickpocket who uses tech hacks to steal byts from hapless corps workers. The higher up in the city you live, the more sunlight you see and the easier your life. For leechers like Nova, four hundred storeys below the surface, life is tough. But with the help of the hacking program Phantom, invented by legendary anti-corps hacker the Moth, Nova can sneak up to the city, leech some byts and at least make rent.

When Nova's skills attract the attention of the Moth themself, an opportunity arises. The Moth has a job for Nova and it's a job offering years' worth of leeching. How can Nova refuse?

But the job might also bring the city crashing down on everyone's head...

I enjoyed this story immensely. It's fast-paced and doesn't let up for an instant but it also manages to be quite reflective. Nova's world is set after apocalyptic water wars and now the rain itself is toxic. Everybody eats manufactured food and everybody must purify their water multiple times before it is safe to drink. Both water and food are in short supply for the majority of the population. Social rank is viciously enforced and criminals and the poorest surrender their very consciousness to become moonies - functionaries carrying out basic tasks such as cleaning and labouring - for a period of time, just to survive. On the other hand, Nova's world is incredibly technological. Even undercity dwellers have wrist hubs connected to the metanet. Nobody writes any more - communication is via glif, an efficient but limited communication form that keeps the population from doing much abstract thinking.

Nova herself belongs to a kind of undercity Fagin's gang, run by a veteran of the water wars. But Nova has superior hacking skills and an independent, non-compliant mind. She is chosen by the mysterious Moth for precisely this reason. But can even Nova take on a sentient AI and win? I liked Nova. She's quick-thinking and impetuous but she's also got a good heart and plenty of courage to back it up.

This is a story for anyone thinking about where technology might lead us and whether or not it's a direction we should be heading in. And it's also one for anyone who enjoys a rattlingly good adventure.

If Phantom appeals, you might also enjoy Brainjack by Brian Falkner, a pacy action thriller about a teen computer hacker and a rather scary, self-aware AI.

Buy Phantom by Leo Hunt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Phantom by Leo Hunt at

Buy Phantom by Leo Hunt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Phantom by Leo Hunt at


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