Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Running Black

Title: Running Black
Author: Patrick Todoroff
Pages: 241
ISBN: 9780578070711
Series: Eshu International #1
Published: 2010
Genre: Science Fiction/Espionage
Source: Review copy provided by author

Buy it from:
Amazon (Kindle Edition)
Amazon (Paperback)

It's 2059 and the North Korean mercenary Tam Song heads up Eshu International: a private security team that will take any job for the right price, no questions asked. Based in the Belfast Metro Zone, they're the best black contract outfit on the planet.

Stable nano-technology: the melding of man and machine on a microscopic level. It's a break-through worth billions no one's been able to achieve. Until now. The Dawson Hull Conglomerate has finally developed a viable Nanotech Neural Network; an interface system that exponentially increases a person's cyber-capabilities. They're days away from unveiling the prototype to the world. And Eshu International just got hired to steal it.

Running Black the debut novel by Patrick Todoroff is an action-packed espionage adventure set in the near-future where huge corporations have immense power and influence; even governments are forced to bow down to their demands. Rival corporations vie relentlessly against each other to gain an economic edge, often resorting to hiring mercenary groups to do their dirty work. Eshu International is the best in the business and when they are hired to steal a prototype of a nanotech neural network they get far more than they bargained for…

The near-future world Todoroff presents is a plausible extrapolation from the present; something that is often very difficult to achieve successfully. The prose is descriptive while still being to the point and adds to the fast pace and sense of urgency. Todoroff uses a mixture of first-person and third-person narration that works surprisingly well. The story is told from the perspective of several viewpoint characters, but it's done in a natural way without causing confusion.

The cast of characters are well-fleshed out and engaging. I was particularly drawn to Gibson and the oddly endearing clone warriors Mopsy, Flopsy and Cottontail. Their childlike naivety contrasted well with their ruthless proficiency at killing. It was also refreshing to see Major Eames, a female character who is as tough as nails and unstoppable in her commitment to track the Eshu team down. The characters all have differing natures and motivations and the interplay between the Enshu team members was interesting and gave a great sense of their shared history.

The plot deals with some serious moral dilemmas and contains some Christian themes and religious references. Since the question of clones having souls is one of the cornerstones of the storyline it’s inevitable that religion has to play some role in the story. The author’s personal beliefs shine through, but it never detracts from the story or devolves into sermonising.

The ending, while not quite the outcome I was hoping for, is thought-provoking and lets the reader draw their own final conclusion. This is well worth a read.

The Verdict:
Running Black is an exceptionally well-written debut novel filled with lots of action, intrigue and the firepower to go with it. Todoroff’s writing style is reminiscent of Neal Asher’s work, but without the grand space opera scope. There’s huge potential here and it will be interesting to see where Todoroff takes the Enshu International team next.

In the paperback version I reviewed there were some very minor editing problems (one or two missing words or wrong word order), but for an independently published novel this is a professional quality product with good editing and a stunning cover as well!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

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