Alright. Time for something a long time coming. Revenge. See way back last year a friend of mine suggested that I read John Ringo’s Paladin of Shadows and I suffered greatly in a process chronicled in my 3 part Fuck You, John Ringo! series. Since then he has apologized many times while waiting patiently for my hate for him to die down enough to review one of his works. This man’s name is C.T. Phipps and his day has come. My first victim is the scifi action-thriller Agent G: Inflitrator.
“Black Technology has made murder a billion dollar industry.” (Of course my dream job is only profitable in fiction)
The International Refugee Society (Should I make a wall joke here concerning refugees or would it be too easy?) has twenty-six cybernetically enhanced “Letters,” and for the right price, they’ll eliminate anyone. They’ve given up their families (By a show of hands who would pay for this alone?) and their memories for ten years of service with the promise of a life of luxury awaiting them.
Agent G is one of these “Letters,” but clues to his past are starting to emerge while he’s on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the Society’s most dangerous competitor (I appreciate a free market scenario for black ops organizations). In the midst of all the violence, subterfuge, and deceit, he’ll need to keep his wits about him and trust sparingly.
After all if an organization will kill for money, what would they do to keep the truth hidden? (I’ll go out on a limb and say kill a metric fuckton of people – that’s two American assloads for people who don’t like the metric system)
Here is the time for my revenge! Time for me to return to him all the pain he inflicted upon me! Except… I don’t have much bad to say it about it. It is far from perfect but it is exactly what it sets out to be. It promises cybernetic spy action and it delivers. It never pretends to be more than what it is. It is a fun Hollywood-esque scifi action thriller. The overall experience is exactly what you would expect it to be. It’s beautiful women, nice cars, quirky hackers, dangerous secrets, explosions, and shootouts.
Let’s go a little more in depth shall we?
Agent G – who I will simply refer to as G from here on as he is in the book – very much a James Bond kind of spy. He flirts with the attractive women and sleeps with a couple. More of a fade to black or passing mention of it than any detailed fucky-fucky. (Which, if I’m being honest, is my preferred unless you are Clive Barker and can actually write sex well – and make it relevant to the story. Sorry, Jacqueline Carey, but what you understand of sex subtracts from the whole of human knowledge.) He’s witty and generally charming. He’s skilled in every act of retroactive birth control commonly and uncommonly employed by assassins. The interesting twist for him is that he is a psychopath –
Technically the book says sociopath but what C.T. means is psychopath. Sociopaths are the axe wielding lunatics living in trailer parks. Psychopaths are the CEOs who can destroy your life without blinking. Those are over simplifications but you get the idea. Though technically psychopath and sociopath are no longer used by most psychologists.
Sorry. It’s a pet peeve.
– and back to G! His psychopathy is a result of mental conditioning. Which is a very cool concept. Artificial reduction of empathy and human connection is something that a lot of people – let’s be honest and say governments – would be highly interested in. In fact mental conditioning plays a large part in the book and it manages to do so without falling into the usual traps of those elements. It’s not magical mind control and it doesn’t always work. It’s messy and a little bit of a crap shoot. People retain or develop traits they’re not supposed to. Sometimes it doesn’t take at all.
In fact a lot of the psychological elements in the book are surprisingly good even if shown in a larger than life way. Take for example the Carnivale who are the enemy organization mentioned in the synopsis. They are made up of a collection of mentally …fun people. That’s a nice way to describe a collection of murderers, rapists, terrorists, and full blown wack-a-loons, right? Downright diplomatic I’d say. And the book shows how tenuous any social order is when antisocial tendencies becomes the norm. A ticking time bomb of mental illness mixed with the cutting edge of violent technology.
In fact let’s talk about the technology here because it is far more intricately tied into the setting than one would initially think. The tech primarily comes in the form of cybernetics and an AI (and one other tech that I am not going to share because it would be a massive spoiler). The AI is mostly a side character with a few comments about how dangerous it could be. The cybernetics are at the heart of the story though because not only does it allow for the cool high level (read as superhuman) action sequences we get but it ties into the heart of why everything is happening as basically all of this action is based around stopping the Singularity* from coming to pass. That moment when technology escapes our control and renders humanity obsolete as it exists. The core event that Transhumanism predicts. This makes what the organizations are doing all about a futile effort to control how and when the human race evolves. It is a unique reason for spy agencies in my experience and one I really enjoyed.
Okay I am waxing a little long here so I’ll wrap it up. I do very much recommend this book if you are looking for a fun read with some interesting questions asked. Now the book does not go in depth into these issues. Don’t expect some Snow Crash level dipping into a mixture of philosophy and technology. It is primarily a rollercoaster. You strap in and enjoy the ride. It is meant to be fun and it succeeds at that at. It’s not high art but neither is Die Hard – and we all enjoy some Die Hard.
And if you don’t enjoy Die Hard kindly get the fuck off my site. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
Bonus Round – The Singularity!
Now because I understand that not everybody reading this is likely to be as big a nerd as I am I wanted to address the concept of the Singularity. Briefly anyway as it is a super complex topic covering a wide range of philosophical concepts. Some of which are incredibly thought provoking and many that are philosophical wank of interest only to hipsters who want to feel smarter than the common man. Which – judging by the enduring success of things like Duck Dynasty, Ancient Aliens, and Donald Trump – is the lowest possible bar to want to clear.
It is a term coined to represent that moment when technology begins to advance on its own and explodes beyond our control. To where society and even the species is altered to the point that we could – ourselves currently – would not recognize or understand it. Like a caveman being dropped into modern day.
Uggh… this is a really sloppy explanation. I am just going to link the wikipedia article on it. Remember, kids. Trying to convey complex philosophical and sociological concepts while you are in a lot of pain is really fucking hard. Know what else is hard? Pissing out jagged hellrocks inflicted upon you by an angry deity.
And with that pleasant image I am going the fuck to bed.