In the latest of Covert-One operative Lt. Col. Jon Smith’s adventures, Mills (The Ares Decision, 2011, etc.) uploads Ludlum’s superagents into augmented reality.
Merge makes supersophisticated iPhone apps resemble No. 2 pencils and scrap paper. A microphone in a molar cap and two studs in the skull enable a deceptively plain plastic box of circuits and software to seamlessly interface with the human brain, displayed through virtual icons and made functional by thought processes. Merge is the brainchild of Christian Dresner’s Dresner Industries. The behavioral science behind Merge is the work of Dresner’s friend, psychologist Gerhard Eichmann. Both are refugees from authoritarian Communist East Germany. Dresner is a Steve Jobs–Howard Hughes amalgamation; Eichmann is the weird-scientist cliché. Dresner releases Merge to the masses and then offers a tailored version exclusively to the U.S. military. Covert-One op Smith, a combat-experienced medical doctor, is assigned to lead the test. And Merge works, providing hyperawareness and seamless battlefield communication and proving so powerful in a real-world test that a group of desk jockeys outfights a special ops team. Covert-One chief Fred Klein, undercover at Anacostia Seagoing Yacht Club but with on-call access to President Sam Castilla, is cautious. Martin Zellerbach, Smith’s psychologically troubled childhood friend and wizard computer geek, is entranced. CIA operative Randi Russell isn’t sure. She’s found evidence that Merge has been tested in an Afghanistan village, with the subjects thereafter slaughtered by mercenaries. Smith and Russell soon run afoul of Maj. James Whitfield, leader of a secret Pentagon group allied with the military-industrial complex. Smith also discovers that Dresner Industries has financed tests in a secret human experimental North Korean laboratory. Mills rockets the action around the world.
Mills offers an interesting new premise for action-adventure, albeit with the resolution one tick less than satisfying.