Swyft solution to a clash of superpowers
Prescience is one of the most important attributes of the thriller writer: the ability to read today’s headlines and project them into tomorrow’s realistic scenario. John M. Green’s latest novel marks him as a master of this craft.
Sydney-based Green is a former investment banker who is still active in the corporate world. His record of fictionalising global events that could happen, but haven’t yet, is remarkable.
His first novel, Nowhere Man (2010), identified aspects of the global financial crisis that are just beginning to become a reality. His followup, Born to Run (2011), introduced us to Isabel Diaz, a Hillary Clinton character who becomes the first female president of the US. The Trusted (2013) centred on global terrorism conducted by militant environmentalists.
His new novel, The Tao Deception, sees a return from The Trusted of Dr Tori Swyft, a formi- dable Australian ex-spy turned corporate dealmaker. It is a work of power and intrigue that should be required reading for every politician.
As with Green’s previous novels, this is a fast-paced work full of larger-than-life characters and cliffhanging scenarios. Its tempo almost warrants a medical warning for people with breathing difficulties.
But more than the vibrancy of the writing and the bravado of the characters, the scenarios Green creates are terrifyingly realistic. The book begins with a toxic spray, from a drone, into the bedroom of the sleeping pope. Suddenly every global leader is in danger of assassination. A band of Chinese Uighurs claims responsibility, and overnight the world is on a knife-edge of superpower confrontation.
And on an island that borders China and North Korea, a secret installation is being built and an operation about to be launched that will destroy the power, communications and infrastructure networks of the US and send its population back to pre-industrial times.
Using his extensive knowledge of finance, gained in his previous professions as corporate lawyer and investment banker, Green crafts an extraordinary yet perfectly plausible scenario in which, using the Hermit Kingdom as a scapegoat, a cabal of China’s ruling elite plans to create a new nation based on traditional isolationist principles.
Enter Dr Swyft, sexy, potent and brave, who has been called in as a nursemaid for a massive corporate merger between two giant global corporations. But the deeper she and her colleague involve themselves in the history of the companies, the more she realises the merger is an elaborate sham, part of a conspiracy by a breakaway segment of the Chinese leadership to obliterate the US.
In a previous generation, writers such as Ian Fleming, Lee Child and James Patterson held their readers spellbound with their spies, villains and heroes. Recently, writers, perhaps intimidated by Hollywood and cable television, have been forced to cater to a more savvy generation of readers by introducing cyberspace technology to replace spies and sleuths.
Which makes characters like Swyft so appealing. Academic, knowledgeable, brave and gorgeous, this ex-CIA spook is a blending of Lucrezia Borgia and Elle Macpherson, with bits of
John M. Green