A near future Science Fiction story packed full of action, when it starts, Whistleblower by David Smith has all the punch of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Jake Redwood is part of a special police task force ordered to apprehend suspect alien children and subject them to a set of rigorous tests before they break cover and commit mass murder. The whys and wherefores of this burgeoning worldwide crisis are only to be guessed at, but when one particular child is captured and begins telling a slightly different story, Jake is drawn into the depths of the alien conspiracy.
Whistleblower grabs hold of you as you join Jake on his frenetic adventure. Smith can clearly write action oriented scenes without obsessing about the details as some make the mistake of doing, but instead concentrating on sensation. The first person narrative creates a clear connection between us and Redwood. His attempts to make sense of everything that is going on around him are just as confused as ours at times. Questions and abeyance are made use of extensively in the scenes. Violence occurs frequently, quickly and decisively, making way for speculative reflection and plot summary.
There is one particular set piece that stands out, the confrontation at a log cabin by a lake. Whilst this scene is something of an interlude to the plot, the staging and execution of it are excellent.
It is in the latter where Whistleblower seems to acknowledge its own complexity. As a narrator, Jake is continually summarising is situation and speculating on what may come next. Some of his views are repetitive, just as the attitudes of his supporting cast can at times be condescending. The continual action obstacles in his path are well handled in terms of their execution, but there is something trivial about the way in which Jake describes his world. This is perhaps intentional, as a later reveal demonstrates how he may have arrived at this cartoonlike way of labelling people, groups and objects. Finding a way to communicate this as intention to the reader might be something to think about.
At times it is hard follow the twists and turns of Whistleblower’s plot. When the reader is invited to consider the specifics of any one situation from the same limited viewpoint as Redwood, more often than not, questions remain These are continually pushed away whilst our main character engages in more survival gymnastics, only to return when another moment of respite occurs.
Towards the end of the book, there is an interesting exploration of dual identity which is entirely appropriate to story. This draws together many of the mysterious interrogation scenes that are littered through the previous chapters. Smith has created a flawed narrator in Jake Redwood, but it is intriguing to note the many layers of flaw and damage that are finally revealed. By the ending, we are unsure of how much Jake really knows about what happened and interestingly, the reader emerges as the only person with a complete understanding of what actually happened. This is particularly unique for a book that is told exclusively in first person from one individual’s perspective.
David Smith has built an interesting science fiction action story here, which is well worth the read. At the end, there is an instinct to applaud much of the hidden intention and artifice, when you realise that many of the elements you thought were problems are actually part of the story intent.
Written on 11th August 2016 by Allen Stroud.
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