Review: Codename Winterborn



My name is Kevin Anderson. I am many things. Soldier. Spy. Widower. Pain in the Ass. Exile. Inconvenient. I am hurt. I am weary. I’m bone tired, on the edge of exhaustion, perhaps even on the edge of sanity. But I am still alive.

Come and get me.

Chesterton: “This world can become beautiful again, if we behold it as a battlefield.”

I could write a long rambling essay unpacking that line, but read what Finn has to say instead. There is a lot more firepower involved, as a gift from our vivid protagonist.

He’s a spy who goes on a murderous campaign of revenge.  But he’s just getting started.   Later on, the best revenge is to not only survive the wrath of your enemies, but to thrive in circumstances they cannot tolerate or imagine. He has nothing left to lose, so he builds it up from scratch.

This  action packed thriller  leaves you breathless, both in it’s taught action, scope and character.  Unlike the far future settings, there is very little fantasy here, and much of the technology is easy to see from here. I suppose the US being nuked multiply, that makes this the optimistic version.

It could easily be called post apocalyptic in it’s outlines. I argue that it is NOT a post apocalyptic tale. Much post apocalyptic literature tries to peek dimly beyond the end of history. Sorry, in my book, when history is over, it’s over. The fat lady has sung. The parrot is dead. That is clearly not the case here.  This story argues that the real story of redemption happens only after you’ve hit bottom.

If you love a good spy thriller but don’t want to be bothered with metaphysics– I still beg you to try it anyway. It is not a New Wave diatribe wallowing in subjective nonsense, but a considered look at what happens when a man hits bottom, and claws his way out– not quite to the top, but to a level place where a flag can be planted. So less Stand on Zanzibar and more Batman Returns. His sense of post apocalyptic agrees more with Stephenson (see Diamond Age or Snow Crash) than with any Nebula Award winner of faded memory.

There is some sexual…stuff, nothing graphic, though frankly more than I expected. Again, this is about human things, and about coping and loss. The full meaning of those scenes are not apparent until the very end of the book.

Once again, I keep screaming “Here’s the book. Where is the movie?” Though the prose is less textured and than A Pius Man, there is sharp eye and a dry wit that remains characteristic. It is almost a crime I quote anyone else, because there are so many lines that stick with you. Here’s a sample:

“I’m not cleaning out the house. I’m cleaning out the senate.”

“As I said, I like your style. And, if I keep following you, I’ll get to kill something sooner or later. I wont’ be bored. Maybe dead and mutilated, but not bored.”

“‘Hell you were probably covered the first time you walked into the city.’ ‘Probably by snipers,’ Anderson muttered.”

“It’s very simple, really. Your public image is that you’re a killing machine. Mine is that I’m completely out of my mind.”

“Had San Francisco gotten stranger since he quit drinking, or had he been too drunk to notice?”

There are lots of wonderful touches. The setting is a living thing, particularly in the second half, where we get a glimpse into the underbelly– where the apocalypse hides it’s dirty laundry. Yet even a Hobbesian nightmare still has people you want to buy a drink for, and at least one place you’d like to have that drink. Well, just so long as you don’t dwell on those stains on the floor, or stare too long at the body count.

For the right mood, however, to each his own. Peter Kreeft once said, “Some ideas don’t need philosophers but exorcists.” Declan Finn argues the same is true for politicians. Except this exorcist uses firearms– with extreme prejudice.

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