Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming and when the governor of the state asks him specifically to act as a hunting guide for a VIP, Joe agrees. That VIP is Steve “Steve-2” (because Steve Jobs is Steve-1) Price, a CEO of a Silicon Valley social media creation, ConFab, that is a cross between Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Steve-2 is on his social media platform constantly, sharing his thoughts with his millions of followers every few minutes. He’s asked to experience something new (so that he can share those reactions, of course) and wants to go on an Elk hunt in Wyoming, where he knows he’ll likely be off-line for a bit. Steve-2 has never really been much of an outdoors person, so this will be a true challenge for patient Joe Pickett.
Steve-2 is a bit of a celebrity among the tech-savvy youth, and Joe’s own daughter is impressed that he gets to be Steve-2’s personal guide. But for Joe, it’s another greenhorn he must oversee in the unforgiving Wyoming wilds.
What Joe doesn’t realize until too late is that there is a local, who knows the remote Wyoming wilderness as well as he does, who has a grievance against Steve-2 because his daughter was shamed into suicide because of the vehemence and re-sharing of posts that had put his daughter in an uncomfortable spotlight. This man now sees his opportunity to make Steve-2 pay.
Joe and Steve-2 are caught by surprise (in part because of a betrayal of someone on Steve-2’s own team) and are about to be killed when they manage to make a very hasty escape. Now, however, Joe is in the Wyoming mountains with no horse, no weapon, no gear, and the citified man he’s been tasked with protecting with a killer chasing them.
I’ve only read one other C.J. Box novel (not a Joe Picket book), but I’ve been looking forward to reading some because they’ve been recommended because of my enjoyment for the Longmire books by Craig Johnson. I did indeed find that the character of Pickett has a lot in common with his lawman counterpart, Longmire. So much so that there were times I had to actively remind myself that this wasn’t Walt Longmire I was reading about (this happened at times when, for instance, Pickett would think about his daughter, and in my head I’d be thinking about why that would or would not be appropriate because of what had recently happened to the daughter, but then I’d realize I was picturing Cady Longmire).
This book is a pretty straight-forward action/adventure novel with only the barest of sub-plots. But beyond the action/adventure is a bit of a morality story (maybe a little too obvious for some readers?) about the dangers of modern social media. Who hasn’t read or seen news reports of teens committing suicide and the cause being related to social media shaming? I personally know of three families whose children took their own lives for these reasons. So while we don’t condone our antagonist’s methods, we do recognize his frustration (Box makes it quite clear that this man tried repeatedly to reach out to the social media company and was constantly and actively ignored). Steve-2 adamantly argues that his app is not bad, but rather it encourages ‘community’ and that it is not his/the company’s job to monitor or stifle conversation. But in the wake of a teen’s mistakes being made public on a global scale, and with daily and hourly harassment for that mistake, and seeing no way out and no future that doesn’t include such shaming that the teen sees death as a better alternative, just who is responsible for responsible monitoring?
I enjoyed the action/adventure nature of the book, and the social media aspect is certainly topical and something most modern readers can identify with, but it did seem like a little bit of a stretch putting Steve-2 in Joe Pickett’s circle. Still, I’ll happily read more C.J. Box.
Looking for a good book? Dark Sky is the 21st Joe Pickett novel by C.J. Box. It is a straight-up modern western adventure story with a very modern moral about social media.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: C.J. Box
series: Joe Pickett #21
publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
hardcover, 351 pages