There’s so much going on in this high-tech, hard-wired thriller that it’s tough to pin it all down. Corporate espionage, social engineering and black-hat tradecraft set the scene, but the core of the story boils down to desperate moments of ephemeral intimacy between old friends – people using cutting edge tech and serious combat skills in dire situations.
And GET9 delivers a deadly serious message amid the skulking and scrapping: it doesn’t matter how competent you are as a street or cyber warrior. You can’t save everyone.
Sometimes you can’t even save the people who matter the most.
Freelance Angela McGlynn is supremely savvy online and hard to beat in a fist fight. Her usual work involves surveillance, investigation and making delicate adjustments to tricky situations; sometimes for her clients, sometimes for her own personal projects. She’s used to pulling the strings. But this time she’s the pawn in a multi-national, multi-million dollar game. McGlynn has been coerced into playing a pivotal role when she doesn’t understand the rules – but she knows that everything she values is at critical risk.
GET9’s timing couldn’t be better. McGlynn is a hacktivist cyber-warrior, eighth dan. She’s as accomplished online as she is on the streets, using misdirection and manipulation in a crusade of anti-corporate, anti-establishment direct action. She’s a woman of solid principles and fluid moves, who takes down her opponents (online or otherwise) with vicious efficiency but who rarely lets the fog of war blur her moral boundaries.
Here, however, she’s fighting on all fronts – against corrupt landlords who plan to make the helpless homeless; against multiple government agencies with competing agendas; against an old enemy who’d enjoy his revenge suitably chilled. You’re not paranoid if they really are all out to get you.
Yet unlike some fictional freedom fighters, McGlynn isn’t simply battling against the bad guys. She moves beyond the clear-cut role of the vigilante avenger which was established in the first book in this series, the person who seeks to punish those who resemble her past abusers. In GET9 McGlynn is clearly fighting for the important things: her lovers past and present; her friends and allies, and for the people who can’t defend themselves.
The result is a mesmerising plot which zigs and zags as rapidly as McGlynn’s hard and fast tradecraft. The action sprints from San Francisco’s sidestreets, teeming with pimps, pushers and prostitutes, to the gleaming steel and glass palaces of corporate opulence. Just when you think that McGlynn might actually be too tough to be true, her teflon coating slips – she makes a mistake – and becomes a real, vulnerable human person.
The result is an all-action page-turner that defies expectations to break the usual boundaries of the genre. McGlynn definitely gets under your skin, but just when you think you know where the narrative is going it takes a sharp right into enemy territory. The final chapters in particular are hard to interpret: a couple of events take place which should elicit an enormous emotional wallop. Instead they happen off-stage, out of sight. We learn about pivotal developments secondhand, and the effect is strangely subdued and more than a little unsettling.
These unresolved ambiguities left me with a slightly uncomfortable intellectual itch, wondering if in fact we’ve been told the whole story – or if there’s more to come in the next McGlynn thriller. I’ll be waiting to find out…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
GET9 by Eden Sharp is available at Amazon