‘Initial Vector’ is the follow on story to the Xbox game ‘Perfect Dark Zero’. This was one of the initial games at the time of the launch of the Xbox 360 way back in 2005. It’s not a game I am familiar with so I’m picking up the book with no prior knowledge of the back story. I’m also interested to see how its depiction of life in 2020 looks likes now that it’s just over 6 years away rather than the 15 years from when the book was written.
In the year 2020’ the planet is dominated by a few large multi-national corporations three of which, dataDyne, Carrington Institute and Core Mantis, are the chief players in this story. The bad guy is represented by dataDyne and the good guy is Carrington Institute while Core Mantis has a bit part. These corporations appear to be at least equal or superior to national governments. However, perhaps the biggest gamble of the book is the premise that an anti-gravity drive will have been invented sometime before 2020. By the time of 2020, cars have largely been replaced by vehicles with an anti-gravity drive.
The story concerns the ex-bounty hunter Joanna Dark, who is recruited by the Carrington Institute in their struggle against dataDyne. Joanna has been trained by her farther, who was an ex-police officer turned bounty hunter before being killed. This forms some of the back story which is prior to ‘Initial Vector’. In the novels’ prologue, a major flu endemic breaks out in January 2016, centred in Canada. One of the very few survivors who are immune to the flu is a Mr. Laurent Hayes. He is discovered in a prisons solitary confinement cell where he is serving time for murder. By the time dataDyne produces the vaccine, millions have died.
Following the prologue, the early chapters cover the recruitment of a young student by Carrington Institute and his placement as a spy in the dataDyne Corporation. His discovery and imprisonment provide the initial mission for Joanna who is tasked with rescuing him alive, before he can divulge any useful information to dataDyne. While not a failure, the mission is not a complete success which traumatises Joanna. She flees the Carrington Institute and tries to lose herself in the seedier side of dubious locations before taking on a bounty hunt assignment.
The search for Joanna and her rehabilitation provides one of the story threads but there is more than one here. dataDyne’s mysterious CEO has vanished and is presumed dead, leading to a selection process to replace him. This leads to political manoeuvrings between the chiefs of dataDyne’s subsidiary organisations as they each try to press their claim to the throne. The antics of dataDyne’s Dr. Murray and his adopted son provide another, while the Carrington Institutes struggle with dataDyne provides the story arc.
‘Initial Vector’ is certainly an engaging read, although I personally can’t see anti-gravity drives or mega-corporations with their own armed forces happening in the very near future. While most story elements are covered, making this a good standalone book, I couldn’t work out what gave Joanna the edge in combat situations. This isn’t covered in ‘Initial Vector’ but providing you can accept that she is just special, then you have an excellent story that builds to an interesting climax. It’s well worth a read on these dark nights.
(pub: TOR-UK. 348 page paperback. Price £ 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 1-330-44508-1)