The Operative (San Angeles)
by Gerald Brandt
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Review by Bill Lawhorn
DAW Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756412043
Date: 01 November 2016 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The second volume of the San Angeles series picks up about a year after the action of The Courier. Kris Merrill has been in training ACE facility away from the Megaplex. She is close to finishing her training and starting to work with Ian Miller who was key to her escaping the clutches of the Corporate plots.
The plots of fallen Corporate executive Jeremy Adams and the plans of scientist Bryson Searls will return Kris to action back in the lower levels of San Angeles. She works to protect people and find Ian. Her training has prepared her to be more effective, but it might not be enough.
ACE isn't what it seems, and the truth of its purpose and goals will be revealed. That truth has been affecting Kris for much longer than she knows. Now she will need to decide who she can trust.
Told in a mix of first and third person; the action moves between characters in a rapidfire sequence of events. This is a standard way for a character to tell their story in places they aren't. It is also a cue to the readers of whose story it is ultimately. Kris is a teenager and her angst, love, and pain come through even as she has to fight for her life.
I am most intrigued by the setting of this series. The growth of a super city spanning the west coast which is various levels stacked on top of each other is both thought provoking and disturbing. Some people can now spend their whole lives without seeing the sun or breathing fresh air. The city is a development of the corporations which have risen to power. Those at the top have freedom and opportunity, those below have few choices. I expect more of the corporate structures to be discussed in the future.
I am unsure of the physics that could support this type of city. I typically overcome this issue in a lot of science fiction since it isn't earth based. There has to be a supercrete of some form which allows the creation of an uninterrupted city of seven layers. This is reminiscent of Trantor from the Foundation series or Coruscant in Star Wars. These are multilevel cities climbing to the sky where over time the lowest levels are forgotten and become havens for criminals and desperate people. This city is still in development as the lowest levels in most places still seem to be inhabited, but the transition is moving towards the inevitable decay.
I first came to the series by a giveaway at the 2016 World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City. The jacket description of The Courier was enough to draw me in and the writing did not disappoint. As the second novel in the series, readers should start with The Courier.