Former Army intelligence officer John Powers, back in the States from Iraq, is arrested after a vigilante campaign to rid his neighborhood of drugs and undergoes a series of brutal interrogations in this nihilistic screed set in the near future.
Utilizing only skeletal conventions of the novel structure, Hopkins sets the scene with Powers’ long, anger-fueled, stream-of-consciousness rants and flashbacks, as the protagonist endures torture sessions at the hands of a corporate police force. Powers attempts to figure out why this is happening to him in a society whose benign legal system is well-established. He also can’t understand why he is being targeted when his methods, while admittedly illegal, are far more efficient at reducing drug trafficking than prior police procedures. While there is too much â€œtell” and not enough â€œshow” in Hopkins’ book, his style draws chilling and effective comparisons to Orwell, Kafka, Nietzsche and Rand–an estimable group whose themes and narrative approach overlap in telling fashion here. Powers is an intriguing character–a product of a rough childhood whose school-of-hard-knocks survival skills and native smarts make him an ideal candidate for intelligence work once he lands in the service. But while he seems destined to become the sort of sociopathic soldier that sometimes blossoms under the brutal conditions of war, Powers instead develops a curious and humanitarian empathy in the well-told anecdotes of his time in Iraq. It’s after Powers is arrested that his military training and innate decency provide a fascinating conflict, as he is subjected to the disturbingly violent methods of Garrett Moore–the whatever-it-takes philosopher heading the corporate police. These sections pare the story to its essence and define a novel that is decidedly not for the squeamish.
A novel that asks what torture is, how far it can go and why society allows it as a means to an end.