[Personal note]: For this who do not know, I am a massive fan of the Watchdogs game series by Ubisoft and have for a long time desired to expand my immersion in a universe I love. However, for some reason, I did not discover that there are both books and comics produced set in the Watchdogs universe until the end of 2022 when I read the fantastic book Stars and Strips. It was a book I found captive, and the setting felt like watching Watchdogs 1. Because of this, I wanted to dwell even deeper into the book aspect of Watchdogs. The next book I decided the attack was Watchdogs Legion Day Zero, which this review is about.
We enter a dystopian London in a not-so-distant future, where unrest and chaos are simmering just below the surface, and it is about to blow up. Albion, a paramilitary force, wants to take over law enforcement from the local police and put in place a more draconian control of London. It is in this world we meet Ollie, who is pedalling like crazy to get to a meeting point with a nervous young lady called Hanna, who has information for the hacker collective DedSec. After a brief conversation, Ollie has to bring the information back home to DedSec. However, during the trip, he collides with another man, who, while they argue, gets shot. Ollie, of course, panics, but the AI Bagley gets him to focus and move. Move as fast as he can to get to the safe house.
This is the story’s beginning, which sees Ollie slowly uncovering who killed the man. Along the way, the brother and sister Danny and Rosemary get mixed into the story. The siblings are far from tight and far from good friends. Dannys is a retired soldier turned grunt for Albion, who, throughout the story, battles with the ethical aspect of Albion and how it operates. We are the fly on the wall for Danny, slowly turning away from Albion and more towards the philosophy of DedSec, though he never officially joins. Rosemary, or Roe, as she prefers, is also a soldier. But instead of being on the right side of the law, she is an enforcer for clan Kelly, the major crime syndicate in London. We see her battling how the Kellys deal with stuff internally, and she tries to clear her name to the clan. But it slowly leads towards DedSec, again like Danny, without fully joining. However, even though both (in particular Danny) fight their ethical and philosophical alterations, we slowly see them turn towards a more, almost, anarchistic and DedSec-aligned personal rule set. It is very well depicted how it affects both of them in similar ways. Still, for different reasons, it is quite an interesting spin. Although the book makes it easy to recognize early on, it is the end game. The authors should have obstructed this end-game topic more.
The book is well-written and showcases many of the game series’ ethical decisions. My only grievance with the book is the sometimes too fast switching between characters. It creates a chaotic distortion for the reader to follow along. Of course, this may have been the intention of the author to stay within the character mutability of the game Watchdogs Legion. Still, it is confusing from time to time.
I had the delightful benefit of listening to this book on Audible, where Sam Kusi narrates the book. This is one of the best castings I have listened to in a long while for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Sam Kusi is a Londoner. Still, he gets the dialect he uses in the narration fits the environment perfectly. For me, it made the experience even more immersive. Secondly, Sam Kusi brings the characters a livelihood that makes you feel with them. Finally, Sam Kusi’s voice fits exceptionally well with the director’s intended pacing of the book in its audio format. Sam Kusi is able to capture the speed, chaos, and paranoia in his voice, which is fantastic to experience.
James Swallow and Josh Reynolds write the book, and I can only say it is a book I have enjoyed immensely. I will look for another title by these two authors: collaborations and independent work. I truly appreciate that when authors collaborate, you can tell two minds have written the book. You cannot, in my opinion, here. The book appears as one mind wrote it, and that is refreshing in a world where collaborations often are revealed by style differences.
You can still easily read this book if you still need to play Watchdogs Legion. There are no significant spoilers, except for the tutorial mission.