A hitman in the future finds himself a target when his advancing Alzheimer’s disease causes his boss to place him on a hit list—attracting killers from the Moon to Mars.
Spacegoing humanity in the future is dominated by the vast, amoral, profit-minded SynCorp, in a manner much akin to the Mafia, complete with shoutouts to Mario Puzo and The Godfather. Eugene “Stacks” Fischer was a top hitman and troubleshooter for SynCorp bosses Tony One-point-oh and his son, Tony Two-point-oh; he did his job well, eliminating rivals and revolutionaries. But now, Fischer, in his late 50s, shows signs of dementia; a common cybernetic brain implant that could have prevented his Alzheimer’s would have also allowed people to track him, so he never had it installed. Due to the possibility that Fischer could accidentally give up family trade secrets, Tony Two-point-oh orders Fischer to accept “retirement”—meaning that, in three days, another assassin will kill him; bounty hunters and mercenary types on Earth, the Moon, and Mars have heard the news, and they seek to collect by killing him first. Stacks has no intention of going down easily. Pourteau (Serpent’s Fury, 2019, etc.) delivers a sci-fi yarn that’s so hardboiled in tone that it verges on spoof. It’s part of a multivolume series that he created with David Bruns called the SynCorp Saga, and it’s full of gallows humor with violence to match. He can crack wise with the best of them, even while he’s looking the big goodbye in the kisser (“I curled my lip and shook my head. I was already dying. No need to make it worse with the aftertaste of cheap liquor”). However, in an afterword, the author notes that Alzheimer’s is indeed a serious condition, and he recommends that readers check out Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel Still Alice, which also deals with the theme. Although this brisk tale can be read as a stand alone, it may tempt fans to try other titles in the series.
Amusing space-crime noir with gangster-fiction tropes.