With a complex lead character who is intriguing from the get-go, this science fiction thriller excels at action scenes.
Hulta Gertrude’s thick, multilayered science fiction novel, Operation Selector, imagines a future where the governments of the universe are nothing more than conspiracies.
Democracy is a farce in the Federation, which is made up of Earth and other planets. With android copies controlled by PAI, a special force, and teams of assistants feeding politicians funneled information, candidates are mere puppets in a carefully orchestrated election system.
Phantom agent Satiah, a highly trained mercenary, couldn’t care less about politics; her task is to follow orders, and she is simply to keep Oli McAllister from being killed or elected. With multiple threats to her charge’s life—some from within his inner circle—it’s no easy task. Meanwhile, she has a book to review; a robot, Kelvin, to repair; a report to write … and a secret boyfriend.
Satiah is a well-developed, complex character who is intriguing from the get-go. Phantoms are hard to know; they are killers, ruthless and distant. Her interactions with her boyfriend, Carl, and her trainee, Zax, serve to reveal her more compassionate side, making her an almost superhuman, but believable, heroine.
Other characters—including Satiah’s coworkers, Oli, and a rival candidate, Brenda—are not as well developed. Their distinct traits come out through their speech patterns and in how they behave, but the text tends toward confusing dialogue tags that are hard to attribute to specific characters.
The writing is casual, as though the story is being spoken. It is easy to read, even though the plot can be hard to keep track of at times. It is difficult to track the various conspiracies influencing the election, not to mention all of the people out to kill Oli, and their motivations. Some threads go unresolved; with so much to keep straight, details and events that at first seemed significant may later become extraneous to the plot.
Especially in the first half of the book, italics are overused and inconsistently employed—sometimes they set private thoughts apart; sometimes, they’re merely about emphasis. They establish a flippant tone that clashes with the serious nature of the characters’ tasks.
Action scenes are the book’s strongest feature, and are both entertaining and vivid. Five attempts on Oli’s life are related in detail, down to building blueprints, riveting escapes, and captivating new weapons. The book’s several false endings test audience patience, though. What at first seems like a political thriller devolves into a long-winded political tirade. Shocking events begin to resemble one another and lose excitement. Instead of building toward a climax, dramatic occurrences become repetitive, leading nowhere.
Operation Selector is a muddled and cynical dystopia.
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