Zuto is intended as an allegory about the workings of computer software and viruses. The story takes place primarily within a minute or so of time in our world, which of course represents many clock cycles in a computer world. We meet Zuto, a virus, as the story opens and Zuto steals a motorcycle for a joyride. His antics are disruptive, but rarely destructive. For example, his joyride disrupts the normal workings of the computer and some bits are misplaced which results in a picture on the computer looking slightly odd.
Along the way, Zuto meets Silver Shield, the antivirus program, and some old, deleted programs in the Recycle Bin (Newton and Super Media 2.0) who form our team of protagonists. This is where the allegory falls a little short to me. The main point of any sort of deleted app or file is that it isn’t supposed to be active again. The characterizations are still interesting, but the comparison still felt a little odd in seeing deleted programs running around having adventures. The characterizations of them are entertaining, though. For example, Super Media 2.0 was deleted because “she” has a stuttering problem.
Zuto and his companions go off to see the great Firewall at Port 80 and are impressed until the Firewall comes down and worms come into their lives. Zuto plays the hero to defeat one of the worms, but the other goes away to protect itself and grow into something that will bring down the computer.
Silver Shield is unable to vanquish the worm and a new antivirus enters the scene to attempt to remove the worm. It is unable to do so; therefore, Zuto teams up with Silver Shield to take out the worm. Their victory is short lived as the user issues a shutdown command which would eliminate Zuto because he is not permanently stored in the computer. Zuto leaves through Port 80 to survive and possibly turn to see his companions another day. Before he leaves, he receives the address for the computer in case he wants to return some day.
I appreciated the Zutopedia at the end of the book quite a bit. This puts the referenced computer terms into language that a child can understand. Udi has one particular illustration on bits and colors that I thought was particularly well done. He describes the on/off state of a bit and how many of those bits put together can be used to store colors. As more bits are added, the number of colors represented grows larger and larger. Of course, for more information, there’s an online Zutopedia. In the book, there’s a very basic explanation of binary and powers of two to help introduce the concepts.
Overall, Zuto is an entertaining story. It introduces some basic ideas about how computers might work if they were towns populated with different sorts of creatures. Some of those characterizations felt a little forced to me or perhaps a little unrealistic in their descriptions, but as this is intended for children, I think that the story works reasonably well for that level. Zuto is a short read and the included Zutopediahelps clarify some terms and concepts. If you want an entertaining story about the inside workings of computers for an Elementary aged child, this wouldn’t be a bad choice. I plan to give this to my elementary-aged kid for a read-through and review to get a kid’s opinion. I’ll try to update this review when that happens.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this story with no expectations on the part of the author or publisher. I was not compensated in any way for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.