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Meta-review: Flash

by LE Modesitt, Jr

(Tor, hardback, September 2004.)

Review by Peter D Tillman

cover scanThis is a thoughtful, well-done 25th century[1] SF thriller, set in the same world as 2002's Archform Beauty -- but this one's better, I thought.

An ex-Marine commando, now an advertising consultant(!), gets caught up in a web of political intrigue when he accepts a seemingly-innocuous consulting assignment. In what is (in retrospect) a weak, ad-hoc auctorial plot-pusher, the ruthless Secret Masters of Earth and Mars decide to make a patsy of ex-Col. Dr. Jonat deVrai, then murder him. DeVrai turns out, unsurprisingly, to be both hard to kill and good at turning the tables on his attackers. Besides having a curiously apposite surname.... <G>

This is all pretty basic, plot-boiling stuff, but Modesitt makes the book more intriguing by going deeply into his protagonist's life, and makes 25th century ad-consulting sound pretty interesting. Really. Plus there's a heavy dose of quotidien details that I (mostly) liked, setting up some startlingly-effective juxtapositions. On an 'interesting' day, deVrai's 'To Do' list might read:

1) Get the kids fed and off to school.
2) Make sure Charis practices piano for an hour.
...
7) Blow up Mahmed Kemal, a local ganglord.

There are the customary Modesitt ruminations re what's a good guy to do if the system won't stop the bad guys? Answer: "Get them before they get you." DeVrai also gets involved with an unusual police AI and its attractive cydroid remote, Paula Athene(!), in a clear setup for a sequel or two. Jonat de Vrai's not quite up to Johan Eschbach, the very resourceful environmental-economist protagonist in Modesitt's excellent "Tangible Ghosts" trilogy, but he's cut from similar cloth.

Recommended for Modesitt and political-thriller fans. "A-"

Other opinions:

"Jonat deVrai is an engaging hero, if slow to accept his role. Having opted (loudly) out of the Marines a decade before, he really thinks he's gotten past crusading... He's jarred out of complacency in classic fashion, which is always bad news for anyone close to him..." -- Ernest Lilley, SF Revu

"Flash is a rousing tale, beautifully paced and intriguing, keeping the reader guessing to the end..." -- Joules Taylor, SF Crowsnest

My reviews of the "Tangible Ghost" series:

Note 1)
-- but after a political collapse of the old USA, so Flash's tech level is roughly 22nd-century. [...back to review]

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