R.J. Peneiro
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Buy *Spyware* by R.J. Peneiroonline

R.J. Peneiro
576 pages
October 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Spyware has several point-of-view characters, its settings ranging from wealthy Europe, Shanghai and the U.S. to the desperate Sierra Leone in Africa. The cast is also more multiracial than often seen in thriller fiction, centering on the heartless international diamond business.

Mac Savage is a former CIA operative, just as his father was before him. When Mac was young, both of his parents were murdered before his eyes; his father's friend, CIA operative Donald Bane, takes him in, both raising Mac and becoming his mentor in the agency. Mac works as a field agent for many years until a disastrous operation in Sierra Leone, where many innocent civilians are killed because of his mistake. Since being transferred away from Africa then retiring from the CIA to private practice, he continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress and flashbacks because of that incident.

Now an old associate from his CIA days has called on him. Bockstael, vice-president of HRD - the Diamond High Council - says that Mac's former girlfriend, Renee Laroux, has not been heard from since going to audit HRD's operation in Sierra Leone. Before Bockstael can say much more, he and his bodyguards are shot and Mac is on the run. However, when Mac contacts CIA for help, he hears that he is being blamed for Bockstael's murder as well as the murders of the local CIA chief and his family. The only clue Mac has is the situation in Sierra Leone. Even though he does not want to return there, he has no choice.

Kate Chavez is an experienced Texas Ranger who has a hunch that two cases which have been officially closed are connected and not solved at all. In one of the cases, three executives from the World Missionary Fellowship were assassinated; in the other, the vice-president of GemTech was assassinated. Apparently both murders were committed by the same man, but nobody is willing to believe it. To get more information, Kate goes to see her former boss, Ray Dalton, who was dishonorably discharged after investigating both of those cases. Kate and Ray are attacked by professional hitmen, and Kate just barely survives. One of the hitmen warns Kate that she is dealing with people ruthless and powerful enough to do anything. Soon after, Kate's ex-husband is shot, and Kate and her teenaged son are on the run from gunmen.

Nanotech engineer and programmer Dana Kovacs and her husband, Wes, have invented a method to burn electrical components into diamonds and so make computers even faster and capable of storing more information. Unfortunately, their invention was stolen with forged documents by GemTech's president Frank Salieri, driving Wes to suicide. On the verge of suicide herself, Dana instead decides to join the World Missionary Fellowship and help the poor of the world. She goes to Sierra Leone to help the worn-torn country, and now her thre- year contract is running out and she is ready to return to the world - except that one of the escapees from the illegal diamond mines has found a diamondon which someone has burned nanocircuitry with the method she and her husband developed. She decides to tell Keith Gardiol, the head of the local WMF section. Later, as she leaves the camp for airport, she is brutally kidnapped.

All three main characters oppose a huge and powerful corporation: the Donovan Group, which wants world domination through commerce and putting right people in the right place. The corporation is aided by and dependent on a highly advanced Artificial Intelligence, ANN, the first computer to implement Kovacs' diamond method. The Donovan Group uses also nanotech implants to guide, control, and see through the eyes of its agents. Most of the agents are Level I users who exchange privacy for new skills and abilities; everything they do and say is monitored at all times, and the implant can even be destroyed - leaving the user brain dead. The Group is controlled by the Circle, which consists of ten Level V users who can turn off their own surveillance any time they want but do not know who the other Level V users are. Some of them are point-of-view characters:

  • Frank Salier, CEO of GemTech and a ruthless businessman.
  • Raymond Costa, Vice President of United States, whose implant gives him phenomenal skills in variety of languages and background information on the people, corporations, and countries he has to deal with. Because the president is not really interested in politics or business, he has left Costa to essentially run the country.
  • Doctor Miles Talbot, a former colleague of Dana's who is unhappy with the ruthless way that things are progressing. Even though he helped built ANN, he is only a Level III user and so is constantly monitored. However, he has learned that Dana is in danger, and he is doing his best to keep her alive.

There are also other point-of-view characters, one of whom is seen only once and briefly, and others who are introduced after the halfway point of the narrative.

The chapters are short, often just one or two pages long and often ending in a cliffhanger. There is some unnecessary repetition and a few too many coincidences, but the cyberspace is described in a very visual, movie-like style, the plot advances quickly, and there are some major plot twists. The story jumps smoothly from one character to the next, and the action is fast-paced, almost written more for film format than for a book.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Mervi Hämäläinen, 2008

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