State of War looks likely to be the last Net Force book featuring the cast of characters made popular over the last half-dozen novels in the series. And sadly it’s maybe about time the series had a fresh injection of ideas.
Although a better read than Cybernation, the ill named State of War (it’s nothing to do with a War) is still fairly mundane when compared to the previous standard setter Point of Impact. Steve Perry either rushed this to meet a deadline or has plain lost interest in doing anything new with the concept, as character development is superficial at best and, worse still, it’s just too predictable a plot.
The plot outline? The team are being sued by families of henchmen killed during the assault on the gambling ship Bon Chance at the end of Cybernation. Commander Michaels is being held personally responsible and is up against one of the hottest lawyers in the world. At the very same time this lawyer is working for Cybernation – employing a gun toting henchman to do the dirty work of bribing or blackmailing those in high enough office to swing political favour for the mysterious virtual country of Cybernation.
The bad guys, like all of Perry’s previous bad guys, have a taste for the finest of women, cuisine and wines. The featured hench man always seem to be exceptionally particular about their choice of gun, bullet, grip, sight, holster, time of day and just about any other little nuance that seems to suggest that Perry could write reems of fire-arm babble standing on his head in order to fill up a few pages.
For once can we not just have a gun toting killing machine who doesn’t care what type of bullet he’s using as long as it blows peoples heads off?!
As I mentioned in my review of Cybernation, the virtual reality web surfing really is starting to wear thin – and in State of War, Perry takes it to a level of overkill previously unsurpassed. Yes, it makes a nice change of pace, but usually at the wrong time in the story. There’s no need for us to be led up the garden path while lead geek Jay Gridley rides on his magical flying unicorn following an evil dragon – each of which respectively representing a trace program and a package of data bound for the bad guy as they race across the internet. Okay, so that particular scenario wasn’t used, but you can pretty much skim all the bollocks of the VR scenarios and not miss a beat of the story proper.
It’s this over reliance on the hyperbole that has led the Net Force novels to be drowning in the very dreary nitty gritty of the ‘net that shouldn’t be a feature of what are basically crime-thriller novels with a cyber twist.
There are a few loose ends in State of War which suggest a rush job, too – not least of which is the arrival and then disappearance of one of the characters by the pornstar-esque name of Corinna Skye. She, like every other woman of priminance in the Net Force series, is stunningly beautiful, yet highly educated into the bargain. As a legal representative of Cybernation, she appears early in the yarn and is completely forgotten about by two thirds of the way through the story. She doesn’t get killed, get involved in the court cases or perform any other function. To me, that spells out a change of tack half way through a novel, probably brought on by a looming deadline.
With the roles of virtually every single regular character coming to a natural conclusion at the end of this novel it will be interesting to see if there is another Net Force outing and whether Perry, or another Clancy clone, can revive a great concept being let down by lack of care and effort. Although, to be brutally honest, unless the novel which follows State of War is given a damn sight more time and effort there really isn’t much point in them wasting the paper.