Luce’s (The Mount of Meggido, 2013) latest installment of the Blue Battalion Chronicles.
Two years have passed since the events of the author’s previous sci-fi novel, featuring near-future political wrangling and a host of eccentric characters, including the Rolls Royce–driving, stovepipe hat–wearing Dr. Frank N. Stein. It’s now 2019; the United States, now slightly altered and known as the Federated States of America, is recovering from a recent civil war, and violence is still rampant. After crime fighter Peter Hassel (a man who “knows almost everything about everything”) and voluptuous former New York street cop Rachel Rothburg survive an attack, they discover that it’s connected to a complex plot by the director of the FBI, Beatrice Orange. She has no qualms about murder and maintains a seemingly unquenchable thirst for power (“Her driving dream is world domination”). As Frank, Rachel, Peter and other members of the Blue Battalion investigate Beatrice and her motives, they trace a long series of seedy activities to Yale University, the Skull and Bones Society and other organizations. The story is complex and zany in its construction, with wacky, Thomas Pynchon–esque characters and secret societies, as well as regular bursts of gunfire. It’s at its best when it follows the stoic actions of its good guys (such as when Peter and Rachel handle an assailant) and brutality of its bad guys (including Beatrice’s cool-headed violence). That said, the story occasionally veers into confusion and sluggishness. The blunt character descriptions (“She has a Master’s in political science from San Francisco State and a law degree from Bolt Hall”) aren’t always particularly insightful or exciting. Similarly, a dinner scene at a New Haven club adds little to the story other than to show that one particular character is capable of eating a lot of food. These are mere bumps in the road, however, and readers looking for a wild tale of lively, violent people are unlikely to be disappointed.
A complex, sometimes-muddled novel but one that’s worthy of comparison to Pynchon’s work.