I am pleased to spotlight a much-anticipated Dystopian thriller that I gobbled up in one sitting, Rogue Agent by Kellie Wallace. What happens when human weaknesses catch up with a hardened hit man?
You are what you write - not what you look like or do for a living during the day. Appearances are deceiving, and author Kellie Wallace is a living proof of it. When you read some of Wallace's novels - and I've read several - it's easy to imagine her as a cynical cyber-punk, who spent all her free time reading violent graphic novels. In real life, the author is an upbeat, amicable girl with a traditional corporate job and a soft spot for baby koalas. This contrast between her corporal and her literary selves makes her writing all the more poignant.
In her latest novel "Rogue Agent" Wallace showcases her slick, sophisticated callousness. From the first paragraphs, the tone is set flawlessly and remains consistent throughout the novel. She describes rather unsavory details with nonchalant elegance. Less skilled authors are often guilty of overwriting gruesome scenes for shock value, but Wallace handles gross material with laconic humor. "Humming a tune, he squinted into the scalp of the guy in front of him. Minuscule lice jumped strand to strand, hiding in the tangles of blond hair."
The novel is set in a not so distant future, in 2040. The values and the human nature have not changed, but law enforcement is decentralized, and there are some criminals of international caliber that "the American government refuses to help." The protagonist, assassin Seth Langston makes rounds killing his targets with the same ease a plumber makes house calls. Yes, the job sucks on occasion, but the money is good. He starts off as a "cookie-cutter" hit man with "quotas to meet". But then he gets a much coveted promotion that affords him an instant lifestyle upgrade and certain professional latitude that he did not have before. Along with those privileges comes a whole new slew of temptations and doubts. Eventually, his human nature catches up with him - his conscience and his libido.
One of the most commendable attributes of the novel is that the readers' sympathies shift constantly. There are no clean-cut villains and heroes. Overall, this Dystopian gem is worthy of cinematic adaptation under the direction of Ridley Scott or Tarantino.