From Bolivian author Paz Soldán (The Matter of Desire, 2004, etc.), a dark political thriller with a technological edginess that admirably merges complex literary characters and a fast-paced, interwoven plot.
Blood doesn’t run uphill in the sixth of Paz Soldán’s novels to be translated into English. In lieu of the magical-realism typically associated with South American novels, this one instead sets its many characters against a gritty backdrop of a globalized Bolivia in the near future, where impoverished farmers and young anarchist hackers work in concert to foment a revolution against a democratically elected former dictator. Two of the seven central characters here are employed at the Black Chamber, the Bolivian government’s threadbare version of the NSA, where they work to decode the encrypted communiqués of the Resistance, led by an elusive young genius known as Kandinsky. Still two others obsess over cryptography, allowing the author to delve into the historical depths and cognitive games of codes, codebreaking and codebreakers without becoming excessively sidetracked from the narrative. Alternating chapters devoted to the many characters are at first slow and too difficult to contextualize, but once the story gets moving, and the links between the characters become clear, the narrative takes shape as a mighty, contemporary thriller. At stake are the issues that will shape the U.S.’s future as well as Bolivia’s: government surveillance, unregulated energy prices, civic unrest and the moral responsibility of middle-class citizens. Readers enamored of the free market may find the author’s commentary one-sided and heavy-handed, but the story grows through the eyes of Bolivian characters too authentic to make the novel a political diatribe.
The clean, uncomplicated prose and intricately mapped minds of its many players should satisfy readers of the low and high alike. An adventure with realpolitiks at its center.