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    Review of FLASH by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

    Tor, September 2004

    Ex-marine Jonat deVrai suffers from flashbacks to his marine days--when he was sent around the world fighting battles to keep North American multinational corporations from facing competition, but mostly he is a successful consultant. He's parlayed his economics expertise into a business analysing the impact of product placement in commercial entertainment--a job made difficult by privacy legislation. When he gets a major contract to see if product placement is being used in political campaigns, it seems like an interesting extension to his business. He knows his employers have a hidden agenda--who doesn't? What he doesn't know is that his report will have a lot more credibility if he ends up dead just after presenting it.

    deVrai is tougher to kill than most men. He has maintained (semi-legally) his marine enhancements. But he is just one man against the power of multinational organizations with much of the government, significant parts of law enforcement, and the ability to hire gangland thugs. He quickly realizes that he's in a moral quandry. If he does nothing, he'll end up dead, as will what remains of his family. But the only actions he can think of turn him into something of a terrorist. For an ex-marine, the choice isn't easy.

    An artificial intelligence within law enforcement offers a degree of information and some more tangible assistance. But everything deVrai does seems to make his own death that much of a necessity for the multinationals that rule most of the world.

    Author L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (see more reviews of novels by Modesitt) creates a fascinating near-future world building on political, environmental, and economic trends that are evident now. There is a strong political message in the story, but it's a message that neither current political party (in the US at least) is likely to be completely in synch with.

    Fans of SF will see Modesitt's debt to classics such as Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS and others in his development of the relationship between humans and computer-based intelligence.

    I thought FLASH got off to a relatively slow start. Still, half the fun of Modesitt's work is in the world-building and this was very strong. Althoug FLASH lacked some of the emotional impact of some of Modesitt's works, I have no hesitation in recommending it highly.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 12/05/04

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