Thursday, July 17, 2008

BOOKS: The Blonde - Duane Swierczynski

It's an old trope, but it keeps working when the wordsmith behind it adds a new touch or two. A man sits at a bar (yet to see the reverse of this). He's drinking alone. A beautiful woman slides up to the seat next to him. In the next few minutes, his life changes. She whispers in his ear. "I've poisoned your drink."

Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde starts off in an airport bar in Philadelphia. The gent at the bar is Jack Eisley, a journalist. (I'll CLAIM the job description is the reason I got the book and that the hot model on the book's cover had nothing to do with the purchase decision. But I'd be lying big time) The blonde in question, Kelly White (at least then), gives him the bad news and promises him he has to stay with her 24/7 or he will die. He's been infected by nanobots.


Yeah, we don't get any traditional poisons with this book. It's all about the fictional little machines that cause so many problems over in the Stargate TV universe. Bit of a bane for me. Have never quit gotten the "let's survive and propagate" threat with nano thingies. They are supposed to be small computerized machines with programming to do a job, maybe two jobs. For the programming to go SO WRONG as to turn them into the mechanical version of magic monster creators ... well, somebody should get fired in the IT department.

All this is to say I had an antipathy to the whole idea from the time I read the cover copy. But there was that hot chick with the big gun on the cover. What to do, what to do? I read the book.

Now, I'm not saying I'm racing out to buy everything Swierczynski writes forever. But it was a fast-paced, action-packed thriller. Not much thinking behind anything, but you sort of wondered what fantastical turn Swierczynski was going to put Eisley and White through. There's a hit man who might or might not be government-sanctioned for at least most of his hits, on their case. And it's THEIR case, since both Eisley and White have the same familiarity problem with the nanites. Gives them a physical edge, but requires them to stay within spitting distance for most of the book.

In the end, Kowalskin the hitmann runs full-on into karma. Eisley survives, stronger and better for the experience. The nasty divorce lawyer and the soon-to-be ex, the reasons for him being at the bar at the airport in Philly in the first place, have their own showdown with karma. It's all quite satisfying.

And the book doesn't end there. At least the paperback edition doesn't end there. There's a tacked-on prequel novella. The Redhead details Kowalski pre-Eisley dealings with his beloved, the redhead of the title. Although it's a prequel, the page prior to it starting begs the reader to read the full novel before it. It's a little short of exposition of some of the things that it shares with the novel. And the warning is fully justified.

As far as I'm concerned, I got taken along for a ride and a half. That's pretty good return for the price.

No comments: