America teeters on anarchy as high-level subversives conspire to exploit a new doomsday weapon in Derison’s (Native Moments, 2011) international techno-thriller.
During a baseball game at a boys’ camp in Maine, an outfielder stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman. The victim is identified as Doctor Sarah Litel, a chemistry whiz who was heavily involved with the Ion Disruptor, a doomsday weapon that can vaporize matter on a devastating scale. Coincidentally, Marc Halvers, the Maine detective initially investigating Litel’s murder, had an affair with her eight years earlier, during his stint as her bodyguard at a remote base in Asia; Litel’s employer, the defense contractor Anders Research Institute, had brought her there to assist U.S. Army technicians testing the Ion Disruptor. Just as Halvers starts to probe Litel’s death, however, the FBI takes over the investigation. At the same time, the Federal Internal Security Trust, or FIST—a Department of Homeland Security–like agency—also takes an acute interest in the case. Meanwhile, the country undergoes various crises that make it ripe for subversion, as the middle class collapses, Congress grinds to a halt and the population splinters into factions. The action shifts to Paris, Rome and beyond, as shadowy groups of politicians, National Security Agency operatives, ex-commandos, senior military officers and greedy capitalists vie for control of the Ion Disruptor and the U.S. government itself. Fortunately for readers, it’s easy to root for Halvers and fellow good-guy Adam Pershing, a former colleague of Litel, as they struggle against corrupt adversaries and unlikely odds. The narrative definitely favors action scenes, but the sex scenes, although somewhat perfunctory, effectively move the romantic side of the story along. Its descriptions of foreign settings such as Paris (with its “past of peasants with straw-filled carts, artisans and hunchbacks, church gargoyles and powder-wigged aristocrats, and heads toppled into bloody baskets”) also ring true. However, the disjointed plot sometimes detracts from the overall flow, and the wide-ranging cast can be hard to track. That said, there’s also a daring, well-executed subplot that explores two young characters’ same-sex romantic feelings, and the story becomes particularly poignant when they take center stage.
An uneven thriller with a zigzagging plot but intriguing characters.