by Chuck Waldron
Kindle Edition, 304 pg.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016
Read: May 21 – 25, 2016
Matt Tremain is a man on the run — authorities are broadcasting his picture all over, the police are hunting for him. Not a typical reaction to a tech/privacy blogger (this blogger would like that amount, not kind, of attention) — but that’s the impact that his stories about CleanSweep are possibly having. At the very least, he’s got a few very influential people paying attention, and that’s enough for the powers behind CleanSweep to want him quieted.
Thankfully, he has some allies who have his back — both in Toronto, and around the world, so he’s able to escape the initial attempts to bring him in. Unsure who to trust, he’s living as off-of-the-grid as he possibly can (while maintaining his blog as much as he can — not easy).
Still, this just emboldens him, as well as showing him that the clock is running, and he won’t be able to do anything to prevent this from becoming permanent soon. So Matt, a couple of allies in the press, one in law enforcement, and a few he hasn’t met yet, get busier at exposing what they believe to be a conspiracy devoted to stamping out undesirable elements in society. Toronto will be ground zero, but it won’t be long before this Conspiracy moves to other parts of the world, destroying privacy, civil liberties and lives along the way. Dystopia looms large in these pages, not one decades or centuries away, either; this is a 15-minutes into the future dystopia.
I can’t talk much more about the plot — or most of the characters — without giving too much away. So I’ll just say there are a lot of well-drawn characters trying to do their best at work here. Without exception, everyone of Matt’s allies would be someone I’d like to have more of (not saying that we didn’t get sufficient time with them, just that they were interesting enough to have around more).
And then there are (for wont of a different phrase) the bad guys. With one exception (Claussen’s security chief, Angela Vaughn), these are not well drawn, or that interesting — they’re evil, and that’s about it. Which makes it easier to root against them, but harder to get invested in them as characters.
I’ve got a couple of minor quibbles, and one that’s pretty big. First, for people thus concerned with being spied on, Matt and his allies sure do use their smartphones a lot. Also, the timeline is sometimes too hard to track with, it’s unclear frequently when we’re getting a flashback — and how far back we’re flashing — or when we’re back to “the present.” Lastly, governmental agencies move a little too quickly at the end — probably the hardest part to believe.
My biggest problem with the book was, to me, fairly significant, and ended up toning down my enthusiasm for recommending it. There’s a chapter (maybe two, but I’m pretty sure it was one) wherein Claussen meets with the men with the money and government clout needed to fully implement his plan. A lot of what is revealed about the plan, we readers knew and/or surmised from what had been hinted at, suggested, etc. before. But before it had been shown to us, here it was told to us. And not in a very interesting way — it was basically the part of a James Bond flick where the villain tells Bond his plan just before he leaves him to die (which, of course, he doesn’t). This time there were no Bonds around, just the people who’d enable the villain’s plan. The evil was as plain as day here, and told in the kind of detail no one needed — the only thing missing from this were the conspirators twirling their mustaches. Seriously, you take out this chapter (or edit it a lot), and this book would’ve got a higher rating from me.
Add a little more gray to this, tone down the villains just a shade, and you’ve got yourself a knock out. As it is, it’s a pretty good read — and a chilling reminder of what could be around the corner. The tech feels real, the police state imposed doesn’t sound that far-fetched, the aims of the conspirators carry the feel of legitimacy. This rings entirely of something that could’ve been ripped from the headlines — but thankfully wasn’t (I think). You will keep turning pages, wanting to know what happens to Matt and the rest — you’ll appreciate some small flashes of humanity and the courage that resides in unlikely places.
Give this one a shot. Not only will you probably enjoy this, but like me, you’ll want to get your hands on more by Waldron.
Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest thoughts.