A fast pace, plenty of action, international espionage and some futuristic technology make this an exciting read. While it stumbles from time to time as the story progresses, the unrelenting pace will keep you turning the pages. This was released previously in the UK as The Persona Protocol and released January 31, 2014 in Canada and the US as the Shadow Protocol.
A British scientist, in the midst of ground-breaking research into Alzheimer’s pharmaceuticals, is called upon by the US government to assist in some classified work. Due to her specific skill set, she find herself paired with a group of Black OPS agents for a Program called PERSONA. The Lead Agent, Adam Gray, through a combination of technology and drugs is able to have the personality and memories of any person “uploaded” into his own mind. In doing so, he is able to speak and think as any person from which their personality can be downloaded while having access to all of that person’s memories. The story follows several plotlines that include missions using the PERSONA technology and a search into the past and for the memories of Adam Gray.
Action, Science and Technology!
The action in the story is its greatest strength. The author has a wonderful sense of pacing and never fails to keep the reader from turning pages. In particular, there is an excellent car chase at the end of the book which is vivid and cinematic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author wrote the story with a film script in mind.
The PERSONA concept was quite intriguing. While the technology was cumbersome and difficult to execute (the characters had to carry around heavy equipment, kidnap and subdue the subject, inject the agent and subject with a precise cocktail of drugs, wait a period of time to for the persona to download, then inject the subject with drugs to wipe their short term memory while setting up the scene to make the subject think he had an accident) the result was original and intruding. The idea that a person’s memories and essentially their personality can be taken from their mind, stored and transferred to another person was novel and filled with possibility. In order to take new personality, the main character had to have his own memories and personalities wiped, essentially leaving a blank slate for the imprinting of other personas. This allowed for some excellent espionage and plotlines where the bad guys are hunted for their minds.
I Know You want me to Suspend my Disbelief, But…
While the action was wonderful and the pacing superb, the supporting cast left much to be desired. I have always wondered why authors don’t “stick to the stuff they know”. Here we have a British author who begins the story in a British location with a British character. He then takes that character, flies her to the US where she is inserted into a group of US Black Op agents. The entire setup for this absurd beginning was weak and poorly executed. As a result, the main female character never seems to fit within the story. She is a catalyst for drama in the second half of the book but her inclusion and influence on the characters was never justified. I simply don’t understand why the author went out of his way to set the story in the US. It would have been more believable had the story involved Americans or British only. Throughout the story, I had the distinct impression that the story was not written by an American as the phrasing and terms often felt “British” and the “Americanisms” felt stereotypical and occasionally obnoxious. For example, one character CONSTANTLY referred to others as “Brah” which made me wish my kindle had a feature to block obnoxious words.
While overall I enjoyed the novel, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. The idea was excellent and the technology was interested. The book description was accurate in portraying the story as Jason “Bourn-esce” Unfortunately, the character development was weak the main female character was completely out of place and unbelievable. In the end, the book was saved by the excellent action, an interesting main character in Adam Gray and some novel technology.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 1.5
There were one or two comments were sexual content was implied. Outside of this, the sexual content was very low and suitable for all ages.
Language – 2.5
I may be erring on the low side in this instance. I was forced to put this book down for a week and lost a sense of the overall occurrences of adult language. There is some use of mild obscenities and there may be a couple of f-words but the overall impression was that content would be acceptable for network TV.
Violence – 3
While there are many occurrences of violence throughout the book, it seemed as if the author wanted the book to be appropriate to younger readers are well as more mature readers. The descriptions of the violence were not graphic and I think they would be acceptable for a young adult reader.