#ARCAugust Review of Bounty by Michael Byrnes: Creepy Techo Thriller

Brooke Banks | 12:00 AM | | | | | | |
I was lucky enough to win a free copy from Goodreads First Reads.

Bounty follows investigators trying to stop Bounty4Justice, a vigilante democratic website that raises money right the wrongs of the criminal justice system. People submit others for the website, evidence is collected and backers can cast a vote for guilty or acquittal.

While the assassinations are what has most people up in arms, that’s not the only way to claim the money or get rid of your bounty once someone’s deemed guilty. Bringing in the target to the justice system will net the same reward or turn yourself in and the money goes back into the pot. It’s also important to note, the targets are all people that the justice system has failed to convict or received a slap on the wrist.

Before I start my ramblings on the system, let’s review the book, shall we?

Genre: Sci-Fi, Crime,
Age: Adult
Format: Ebook, 406 pgs.
Source: Won ARC from GR
Rating: 4 Stars
Recommendable? Yes
CW: Violence
Sign in to the ultimate antisocial network. Mob justice meets the Internet in this globe-spanning thriller about a rogue website for vigilante assassins, where outraged citizens bid up bounties on unrepentant crooks and corrupt elites. Following a team of FBI agents striving to counter the untraceable site and the elusive forces behind it, and tracking the real perils of cybersaturation across the globe, this all-too-plausible novel of suspense explores what happens when pervasive corruption, widespread public unrest, and the shattering of any last illusions of privacy clash in a perfect storm outside the rule of law.

From the Hardcover edition.

Adult IconCrime IconSci-Fi Icon Suspense/Thriller IconDark Icon

The Good The Bad & The Other
+ Fast paced action - Characters are bland white people
+ Riveting twists and turns - Could've gone farther, been more relevant and inclusive
+ Thought-provoking set up - Hypocritical cops aren’t brought to task
+ Technology is understandable
+ Liked the Author's Note

Bounty starts by introducing a rich asshole who skates through the law and then his murder by sniper. From there the investigators are introduced, and game begins.

Who the agents/detectives are make no difference. I had a hard time keeping track of them besides the team lead and his romance interest, whose names I can’t remember now and don’t care enough to look it up.

Moments of wait…I thought that was the other guy are not fun. Eventually, I got it straight but their daily lives are meaningless in the scheme of the story. It’s easy to accept the interchangeable typical white crew and roll along.

It easily kept me reading as Bounty4Justice racked up targets and they discovered its depth. There is traditional cop work done but the majority obviously lies in cutting edge technology. The regular joe team members act as audience surrogates for the geek squad explain it all to. Even if I didn’t get the mumbo jumbo, I got the idea and it’s easy to understand what Bounty4Justice has accomplished.

I loved the inclusion of social media and hacktivists, not only in the plot itself but with snapshots of posts themselves. Reading those posts was a great insight to the public’s response to the website and investigation. It really brought the concept to life.

There are also chat transcripts scattered throughout between two screen names that mean nothing at the time. It piqued my interest and lead me down some false paths about Bounty4Justice’s origins and outcome.

The reveal of who’s behind it though was disappointing. Oh. Okay. People familiar with genre tropes could call it early but I was too wrapped up in the story and fell for the red herrings.

But the ending? I fucking love it. It’s another haunting open ending. I’ve read so many excellent examples of this usage and I don’t think I can say I hate open endings anymore. I just hate when they suck.

It fits Bounty perfectly in tone and content since the technological arms race will never end and we’re always a step behind. Throughout Bounty4Justice’s system had my mind spinning with the implications, complications, and variations, but the last scene…It reminds me of heist books and left me reeling.

It’s NOT a good thing to read before bed. Especially not if you continue to read the author’s note. Brynes clearly knows his stuff and I appreciate all the work and concern that went into Bounty.

Musings on Bounty4Justice:
Social Media, Justice & Racism

In the beginning we learn the investigators celebrate the douchebag’s death as comeuppance and get to work on finding the killer. They aren’t outraged until they clue into Bounty4Justice. Their problem with this vigilante justice is the same as this article’s explanation why Gotham hates Batman and sicced Superman on him.

It boils down to three points: doesn’t play by politics, shows the government in a poor light, and gives the people back their power. But the really interesting part is how Bounty4Justice solves two common issues with vigilantes: it’s one person or group taking control and proving guilt.

As I said earlier, it is democratic with the only criteria to pledge and vote being internet access, a $2 badge and an address to receive it. Because hackers bypass the legal safeguards, there’s a wealth of evidence provided as everything is electronic now.

While everyone is up in arms about the murders, that’s not the only way to claim a bounty. Turning a target into the authorities with net you the money, and if you’re a guilty target you can always turn yourself in.

Before you get to that stage though, there’s a vote for acquittal or guilty. And it works. It may be a short run, but Bounty4Justice proves its viability and reliability. Our government crew keeps wringing their hands over the slippery slope of “We’re next! Regular Joes should be panicking!” Such fearmongering. Yeah about that…

To make it worse, they’re hypocrites. They approve of government assassins doing the same thing without accountability, transparency, and using tax dollars. Not to mention the states with the death penalty…

Anyways, I love thinking about how Bounty4Justice could continue and evolve. Would it break down to local areas for solving crimes without the option of death? Would we have mini-Batmans running around making citizens arrests or would it remain for the major players?

While the focus is the arms race of technology, my mind went the opposite direction. If Bounty4Justice’s system continued to work, would criminals revert to old-fashioned ways? Would it shrink the need for itself? People were protesting to protect this website, but where were the protests against the corruption and police state? What changes would be wrought with such an alternative?

Even if you’re sold on the Bounty4Justice’s setup, it’s not without further considerations. What about the poorest with no internet access or cash to donate? Could advocacy groups for them spring up to make sure their voice is heard in the voting?

Would the inherit racism in the system continue? That’s not an issue brought up, but most criminals to get away from our “justice” system are rich and white. But I have little hope people won’t ruin it anyways. The investigators closed around the innocent colleagues but what about the uniformed murderers?

Bounty has been called timely with its take on technology and increasing disillusion of the system, but the race issue is ignored as usual. Why not include an example of these beat cops? They certainly count as some of the worst offenders to be targeted.

The #BlackLivesMatter is a peaceful movement and would disavow it, but it could be used as a tool for a radical flank effect. Who would rise up as the advocate for forceful rebellion, a known entity or a new comer?

You know who is missing from this narrative? Countries with justice systems instead of an Industrial-Military complex, a School to Prison pipeline, nonexistent gun control, and cops that get away with murder. The World Justice’s Top 10 appear nowhere in this story.

Just sayin’.


A must-read for fans of the genre and those who want some creepy food for thought. Don't read it for the characters, you'll be disappointed.

What do you think of the Bounty4Justice system? Do you want to read Bounty?

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