Sirk TV Book Review: ZERO SUM GAME [Tor]

The essence of a bounty hunter revolves around knowing who to rescue and who to hunt. With “Zero Sum Game” [S.L. Huang/Tor/329pgs] it is a little bit of both. Cas Russell is a lady with a plan and she sees her fights and life within a sense of math. When she fights she can see the geometry of the room ahead of time. This serves her well and make her a little cocky overall but she cannot quiet her mind in the off times. Her mentor is somewhat of a psychopath but has almost a Zen quality about him despite the undeniably vicious things he does. The aspect of a Big Brother corporation run by a woman who can almost reach into minds does not adqequately structure the scope of what the book does which adds to the surprise of its trajectory. The book plays more like a 40s noir where everybody is a bit bad but also a bit good. The characters don’t apologize for who or what they are. Much of the action takes place on the outskirts of LA: the East Side, EL Segundo, etc. Cas doesn’t question her brazen nature but does second guess its intention after the fact. Another character that becomes involved is Arthur Tresting, a down on his luck former cop turned PI. The job both Tresting and Cas are hired on are part of a larger plan to ensnare others. The Overlord scenario plays a big part in what is being shown. Cas is just smart enough to be a nuisance to her employers but even the people who pursue her at times don’t know who is pulling their strings. Certain sequences like a hit on the end of a mountain hill road or the destruction of Cas’ hacker warehouse carry particular resonance. The book plays to the element of control within chaos. The introduction of a second hacker in the form of Checker provides a small basis of humor that isn’t purely gallows. Checker knows they might die in their mission but also knows that he is surrounded by killers (save for Tresting) no matter which way they might justify it. The ending is interesting and definitely ventures into Kubrick or Wachowski territory using the aspect of mind influence. The subject really brings into mind the aspect of what psy warfare would be based on but the narrative stretches the character of Dawna a little bit too far. It could have been pulled back slightly at the end and been more believable but the reasoning and the psychological nature of it seems sound even if it is a little too neat. That said “Zero Sum Game” has a gum shoe quality with the balance of a revenge picture and modern techno thriller that gives it a nice edge.


By Tim Wassberg

Posted on October 15, 2018, in Other Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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