An espionage thriller follows teams of secret operatives who’ve been prepared for clandestine work since childhood.
Mitch Hawkins is a thoroughly unspectacular young man who grew up in West Bush, a similarly inconspicuous suburb in an unnamed state. Although he didn’t realize it, he was being vigilantly tracked by “watchers”—CIA agents tasked with assembling teams of young operatives and preparing them for future missions. Their tactics could be remarkably invasive: while undergoing tonsil removal, for example, Mitch was subjected to surgical alterations to his neurophysiology that increased his cognitive abilities. He’s recruited, largely unwittingly, into a secret CIA program called “Ying/Yang,” which splits its participants into two distinct groups. After Mitch becomes an electrical engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he’s assigned to the Yangs, a group whose principal mission is interfering in the affairs of foreign governments to the United States’ advantage. On his first mission, Mitch and the Yangs are charged with toppling the current Australian regime, which is attempting to adopt socialistic policies, partly bankrolled with a loan from a Pakistani financier. Meanwhile, the more zealous Yins plot against the Yangs, troubled by what they perceive as their left-leaning tendencies. To further complicate matters, a separate, even more radical group, dubbed “the Fire Department,” splinters off from the Yins and opposes the Yangs, as well. Hawron (The Little Town with the Big Heart, 2016) weaves together a complex tale brimming with intrigue and action. His knowledge of international affairs is impressive, particularly those of the Cold War era. However, the narration reads like a recitation of loosely connected, maddeningly entangled events, rather than a coherent, plausible plot. The characters never seem fully real, as readers are given little substantive insight into their interior lives. Finally, the story is written in earnest but bloodless prose that seems geared more toward teenage readers than adults: “Alexa just shook her head, I’ll never understand politics! It is all just so convoluted! Little could she know just how convoluted things really were!”
An overly complex and insufficiently believable political thriller.