Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
This weird novel is a disturbing mix of George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 with a sprinkling of H G Wells’ time machine, and perhaps hints of Lehane’s Shutter Island or Philip K Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, because nothing in this political espionage thriller can be taken at face value. This is not a thriller that can be read lightly, because you’ll need a periscope due to the depth of its ideas and ambition.
We start with an ‘agent’ from the future named Zed, (who uses the alias Leroy Jones) sent back to our time to watch over world events, ensuring that all the known disasters occur as history has recorded them. The purpose of Zed (and his fellow agents) is to ensure that the ‘perfect world’ of the future will not be altered by the future’s opposing forces (‘the hags’).
So Agent Zed finds himself playing cat and mouse with fellow time travelers, and at the same time trying morally to justify the tasks he has been entrusted with – ensuring the death of many innocent people in the upcoming ‘event’, something that will decimate the population, leaving a small band of future survivors who will craft the ‘perfect world’.
Added to the mix is Leo, a disgraced ex-CIA Agent now working as a private contractor watching over political dissidents, including the youthful anarchist “T. J.” and his friend the corporate lawyer Tasha grieving over her dead brother killed in military combat, and Sari a Korean Diplomat’s housekeeper. How their paths cross with Zed (aka Leroy Jones) is somewhat surreal, as Zed / Leroy tries to match his mission with what happened to his father-in-law, wife and young child in “his future”. There are rumours that Zed / Leroy is not quite what he seems, as perhaps the future is not as perfect as he has been lead to believe and that the line between sanity and madness overlap.
In a world were reviewers bemoan books devoid of originality, this is the exception to the rule. The ‘kicker’ is that the ambiguity of its ending forces the reader to re-think what he was witnessed, as the narrator(s) of the tale appear a tad unreliable – unlike Mullen who delivers a disturbing vision of reality and madness, in a literary style that has you reaching for Valium at the end of each chapter.