A near future in which promotion in the workplace occurs through duels to the
death with peers, enacted in souped-up cars on a motorway network deserted by a
broken society in which the vast majority cannot afford to drive on said
well-maintained motorway network. It is an extraordinarily shallow universe; a
teenager's dream, unbelieveable and even unimaginable to the rest of us. To be
fair, some of the simplicity might be attributed to the success the author has
had in his research and extrapolation from current high-end international
business practises, but it still leaves a very thin canvas on which to impress a
story. It is padded a little bit by intriguing international terrorist
association which the author seems to have got a fair familiarity with.
And the story is that a man joins the number one firm, makes friends, makes
enemies, goes to bed with his best friend's mistress, makes good deals, makes
bad deals, gets cut down by his bosses, lets his anger get the better of him by
killing some people and eventually one of the bosses themselves, whereupon he is
forced by the firm into a duel with his best friend angry at being informed of
his friend's trespass against him. So, the story sits quite comfortably on a
thin canvas. At least the story keeps moving, and always stays interesting.
However, this isn't entirely a YA flick-through. The strength is in the
development of the characters in general, but in particular the main
protagonist; the man at the centre of it all. We get to share a roller-coaster
ride of emotions with him, get to understand his poor past and fragile
present-day standing; see people around him help, support, nurture, collude,
knife, desert and betray him. We learn that he is far from a perfect soul, but
that he does have sentiments above his peers. In fact, by the end of the book,
you really feel like you have made the acquaintance of a new friend, someone you
might grudgingly stand by and defend out of loyalty.
The ending is not as spectacular as it might have been, but fits the book well
and rounds the story off very cleanly. Our hero walks away badly broken but
alive and proud, and newly promoted, of course.