Running Black is a science fiction novel, the debut of Patrick Todoroff.
For the last eight years, the North Korean mercenary Tam Song has headed up Eshu International, a private security team that takes any job for the right price, no questions asked. Based in the Belfast Metro Zone, they're reputed to be the best outfit on the planet.
Stable nano-technology: the melding of man and machine on the microscopic level, it's a break-through worth billions that no one's been able to achieve until now. The UK based Dawson Jull Corporation has finally developed a viable Nanotech Neural Network (N3 for short), a system that would exponentially increase a person's cyber-capabilities. They're days away from unraveiling their prototype to the world.
Eshu International just got hired to steal it.
The first thing that strikes you about this novel is that it doesn't mess about with introductions, back-story or building up characterisation, it just launches straight into the plot head first and expects the reader to keep up. This minimalist approach to world building can be quite effective if the story hold the interest enough, and more importantly if it's well written. I am glad to say that the plot holds up well, and for a debut novel it's very well written.
Running Black is a little like a 21st century version of William Gibson's seminal novel Neuromancer, but with the startlingly clear differences of character building and backstory.The book has a mixed narrative, sometimes told from the first person of the character "Jace", a member of the Eshu International - sometimes told in the third person. The plot follows the emergence of true "wetware" on a nanotechnology scale, and to just what lengths people with power will do to control the technology. The novel is fast moving with plenty of twists and short, descriptive chapters which manage to avoid breaking up the pace too much.
The near future setting is intelligently considered and effortlessly described, the countries are ruled by commercial entities, the neural network interface is a reality and genetic cloning is big (illegal) business. I liked the gritty, raw feel to a post modern UK (or in the book Northern EU) and while the characters aren't fleshed out to any real degree, the author nethertheless manages to create a bond between reader and protagonist.
Running Black is a very easy to read, fast novel with plenty of action and describes an interesting vision of a future Europe, recomended.
Written on Sunday 31st October 2010 by Antony Jones.
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