What happens when technology and wealth run a muck? What if America, unable to float it’s increasing debts has to sell itself to foreign interests using money that was originally intended for social security? What if the world was no longer run by governments, but investment conglomerates who’s techniques of recruiting it’s employees and gaining clients mirrors that of the most skilled special forces? This is the world presented to us by writer Kelly Roman who’s name incidentally is the name of the lead character. The story takes place in 2030 and our hero Kelly Roman returns home from war upon news of his brothers mysterious death. Carrying an inhuman amount of psychological luggage left over from the field, Kelly tries to piece together the mysteries behind his brothers (Shane) death all the while taking care of his ailing father and reluctantly trying to reconnect with his wife whose been badly scarred in the same war Kelly fought in. The quest leads him deep into “TRENCH” his brothers employers up until his death. Trench is a powerful Chinese shareholder in the U.S. who pretty much owns the nation. Kelly applies for a position at Trench and is soon brought on. He is taught the tricks of the investment trade and war by Sun Tzu (Trench’s CEO). This Raz Al ghul type character nurtures his former employers brother and teams him up with his unscrupulous daughter Sun Qing. The two set out to take down the companies rival Vespoid run by Sun Tzu’s former protege Victor Mammon a.k.a The Prince. Course there’s a host of twist and turns in the story and I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll just say it will hold you til it’s climatic ending.
When I read, hear or see something that is this socially relevant I tend to shy away. Writers who aren’t careful sometimes get too caught up in preaching and don’t stop to realize it still needs to be fun. There were a million and one mistakes that this book could have made in that regard, but it manages to dodge them all keeping the story fresh and with a Hollywood-like, sexy appeal. I will say that I had to read the book twice to really get a grasp on some of the moves the characters were making. I thought the excerpts from the real Sun Tzu book interlaced with the character dialogue was distracting sometimes. I kept wanting to relate the excerpts to what was happening. Sometimes I got the connection and others I didn’t, but I understood what Kelly was going for. When I read it again and bypassed the snippets I was better able to grasp the story. Personally I think the fact that Trenches owners name is Sun Tzu may be all you need to get the point across, but maybe I’m giving readers too much credit in assuming they will all know who Sun Tzu is. Kelly’s role in all this as a emotionally scarred super soldier with a past does wonders in gauging his level of desperation with each character he comes in contact with. You feel genuinely sorry for this man who seems to have wanted to do all the right things in life, but was ultimately handed a very shitty deal. The hero Kelly Roman is an all American, but on an entirely knew landscape. His journey is one of survival and not so much from a patriotic/propaganda since, but more or less human stand point in a very inhuman world. Illustrator Michael Deweese takes on the role as artist of this sometimes ultra violent and ugly world. You’ll notice that the only color you see in this book is red. It’s timing throughout the book is clever, revealing itself in moments of heightened emotional or physical stress. A simple trick, but nicely executed by Michael. Seeing copious amounts of blood or a tattoo on a women’s leg in true crimson draws the reader in unconsciously, we are helpless to our emotional response to that color and this helps in adding to the overall energy in this mesmerizing tale. I recommend this book to anyone whoes into thought provoking science fiction. This story of war, greed, science and love entertains in ways I wasn’t prepared for, but was pleasantly surprised by.