by Maurice G. Dantec
Translated by Tina A. Kover;
Review by Harriet Klausner
Del Rey Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345499936
Date: 20 May 2008 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In the not so distant future, war destroys most of mankind, leaving one and a half billion survivors on the planet. Cities lie in ruins; water levels have risen, changing the shape of the continents; and there is one global government, UniWorld, that rules through a vast computer network. The monitors control the humans who created it to keep track of every facet of every person's life. In order to go from Russia to Grand Junction, one must cross checkpoints; so in order to complete his assignment, Sergei Diego Plotkin has been given false memories and a mind limited to a few basic facts to complete his mission.
Plotkin passes the security checkpoints while taking the monorail to Grand Junction, one of the last functioning cosmodromes in the world. The people who go to Grand Junction can afford to buy a Golden Track (ticket) that will give them a seat on a space ship to become free of Uniworld scrutiny on the orbital Ring habitats and the Mars and Luna colonies. Plotkin is not interested in space; instead, as a member of the Red Star Order, composed of former Soviet Army officers, and an assassin he is to kill the local mayor. His group employs the best mercenaries in the world. Plotkin has no feelings at all about killing the mayor, Orville Blackburn, who broke his pledge to the powerful Russo-American Mafia that dominates the northeast -- it's a job.
Plotkin prepares for the kill by gathering information and finding people who can be blamed for the mayor's death. He is abetted by an AI, Melatron, who is much more than he seems. But Plotkin's mission becomes inconsequential when he meets Vivian McNellis, who is dying. She needs his help to get to the Rim; he wants to drop everything and do what she needs immediately. She informs him that certain steps must occur before she can be free to make her choices; he reluctantly acquiesces to her stipulations.
Big Brother is a group of machines that dominates the survivors. There is a Divine Plan at work, but readers must remain patient as this only begins to surface in the middle of this science fiction. Earth is dying, yet no one outside of us readers seems aware of this yet. The planet is a vast wasteland of ghost cities and cataclysmic climate changes that make Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth look like a minor storm. The descriptions of what the earth has become are described in vivid detail so the audience will easily visualize what the planet looks like in its dying embers. This is the soul of the tale.
Even though he is a paid hitman, the protagonist in some ways is an innocent, perhaps because many of his kills have been erased, as in the Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall. His meeting with Vivian changes him for the better. She proves to be much more, as a Twilight Zone twist involving the pair occurs (read the book to learn what happens). Other characters for the most part either bring out the environs or the lead couple; especially fun to follow is the former Marine bioengineered cyborg dog Balthazar.
The translation from the original French is excellent as the nuances of the original thriller seem to have come across in the English edition. Maurice G. Dantec's work is a powerful condemnation of a dystopian society on the verge of collapse. Mr. Dantec is a first-class world-builder who knows how to keep the twists coming.