Review: THE TRUSTED by John M Green

TheTrustedTHE TRUSTED is an environmental thriller with an audacious premise that does require an almost total suspension of disbelief. But if you are able to lose yourself in the version of the near future that Green depicts you’re in for a terrific ride.

An Australian academic’s plans to save the world involve destroying a lot of it first and he settles in for the long game. He selects a group of highly intelligent and ambitious young people who share his worries about the rapid depletion of the world’s resources and grooms them to become quasi sleeper agents working towards global economic and political collapse. Each of them is to work their way up in their chosen field – medicine, banking, technology and so on – so that on a predetermined date they can unleash whatever catastrophe they have been able to orchestrate. After their initial meetings the group’s members never contact each other or their mentor again so there is little hope of anyone in authority being able to identify the group’s existence or interrupt its plans until it’s too late. The first inkling most people have of something being horribly wrong is when the operating model being used by many of the world’s nuclear power plants is found to have a dangerous glitch in its code. A glitch seemingly put in place by Dr Tori Swyft, former junior world surfing champion and disgraced CIA agent who must now use her considerable skills to prove her innocence and help prevent the global collapse planned a decade ago.

It probably says more about me than it does about the book that I found the plot easier to swallow than the characters but overall I enjoyed both. While the story’s vast scope might (hopefully does) border on laughable its individual elements are all credible enough, especially aided by the right amount of detail to make them seem eerily, worryingly possible (seriously it’s going to keep me awake tonight). And once you accept the novel’s operating premise there is an internal logic to everything that follows which is, for me, the most important thing in this kind of thriller. The plausibility of each person’s plan for catastrophe, the way that the plans are uncovered and the reactions to these discoveries by individuals and authorities are all well within the bounds of believable. The sheer number of events taking place and the speed at which things unfold make the whole novel exciting and the final fifty or so pages is pure white-knuckle reading.

The one thing that annoyed me a little about the characters is that they are all superhuman in one or more ways. Tori Swyft, for example, is drop-dead gorgeous, a genius and physically gifted to boot. Which is all very well except that as a reader I find this kind of ‘überhuman’ a bit dull as they’re rarely in any real danger of not being able to pull off whatever unlikely miracle they need to. I guess in real life the beautiful people only surround themselves with other beautiful people which explains why all the players here are of above average intelligence, looks, sexual prowess and wealth but I’d have preferred to meet one or two ordinary folk to make things a little more recognisable. However, even though I was well prepared to dislike Tori (jealousy’s a curse) I did warm to her affable character and was definitely cheering her and her fellow good guys on.

Although it can be read entirely independently, THE TRUSTED has a few links to Green’s earlier thriller, BORN TO RUN, which I also enjoyed. They were kind of like the Easter eggs that devoted players will uncover in computer games and seemed like a nice little reward for reader loyalty without punishing those who had not read the earlier novel.

As someone who has spent more than her fair share of time in meetings of environmental groups at which more time is spent wordsmithing the mission statement than planning anything that will constructively change the world I must admit to being strangely lured by the premise of this novel (I’m not young, intelligent or sexy enough to pull something like it off so you needn’t worry). But even without that personal hook I think THE TRUSTED has all the qualities needed to appeal to fans of a well-plotted ‘what if…’ thriller. And the last line is a doozy.

Publisher: Pantera Press [2013]
ISBN 9781921997105
Length: 390 pages
Format: paperback
Creative Commons Licence
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: BORN TO RUN by John M Green

In a post-President Obama (actually post President Biden!) world Isabel Diaz looks set to be the next US President. She has worked her way out of poverty in a way that speaks to the people, she’s smart and she’s a Republican. But just when it looks like she can’t lose things start to go awry with her campaign. Did she really employ a Muslim terrorist? Is she perhaps ineligible for the top job after all? Are their shadowy figures working for her, or against her?

The notion that anyone, even a woman who started out life as the dirt poor daughter of an immigrant single mother, can become President of America has driven many a story over the years but it loses none of its power through repetition. Isabel Diaz is well drawn as a character; her troubled background being believable as is her transition to the wealthy woman she must, realistically, be to even consider running for the top job in this day and age. In a post script to the novel the author explains why he created Isabel as a Republican I found this particularly fascinating as I have been listening to the Republican Primary debates online of late (yes I am that obsessed with American politics) and reflecting on the sad lack of an inspirational candidate. Her advisers, unseen but proactive supporters and political foes are, collectively, believable too; all appearing somewhere on the spectrum that starts with genuinely good guy (or gal) and ends just shy of Hitler. The various machinations and betrayals that take place all ring true as they play to the community’s baser fears and prejudices in the sad way that politics seems to do these days.

This is a real old-fashioned romp of a book with a great build-up of suspense and a slew of unexpected twists. The convoluted thread that sees Isabel pit her wits against nature towards the end of the book feels a bit too contrived; a fact probably more noticeable because the rest of the book’s plot developments feel much more natural. However this is a minor gripe in an otherwise solidly entertaining and intelligent political thriller.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Publisher: Panterra Press [2011]
ISBN: 9780980741889
Length: 387 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: provided by the publisher for review