463 pages. Afterword.
Donald Westlake was one of the great crime novelists, so having a new novel is worth celebrating – especially since he died in 2008!
This is not only a posthumous novel, but it's also got a story behind it: Westlake was originally asked to come up with a James Bond script as a sequel to Goldeneye, and this plot would have put Bond in Hong Kong right after unification with China (which was then unfolding). But the studio got cold feet, what if the turn-over of Hong Kong turned violent and made the movie look bad, what if the Chinese were offended by the plot… so the project was shelved.
But what nobody knew until recently was that Westlake proceeded with the idea, took James Bond out, and wrote a novel which was never published in his lifetime!
Richard Curtis made millions in construction, until the Chinese forced him out of Hong Kong when they took over. He needs money and wants revenge – and engineer George Manville has given him the tool he needs! The soliton is created by a timed series of underwater explosions, and it can turn land into quicksand – especially landfill. And Hong Kong has plenty of 'reclaimed land' from the sea…
Dogging Curtis' steps is Jerry Diedrich of the ecological group Planetwatch, determined to catch him ruining the environment. Yet Jerry's obsession with Curtis seems… personal. Also with Jerry are Luther, his lover, and Kim Baldur, a young adventurer looking for excitement.
The novel has an interesting structure. At first, Manville seems to be the protagonist as he gets in Curtis' way and suffers his retribution… and then he takes a back seat as other characters come to the forefront, new characters are introduced from Curtis' organization, and police officials and detectives step in. The only constant is… Richard Curtis, as his quest for revenge causes him to break more and more rules.
If you're looking for James Bond here – he's not here, that part has been completely rewritten. There is no super-spy, no amazing gadgets, it's not that kind of story any more.
I was prepared to be disappointed by this book, figuring there must be a reason it was never published before. But I liked it.
Note that there's some violent content, a suicide, sadistic behavior, some brief sexual scenes – don't give this to the children to read.
Can you wargame it? Some scenes could inspire scenarios, from a shoot-out on a luxury yacht to a police assault on a gangster-defended construction site. But the plot itself would take a lot of changes to make into a game campaign.
Fun book, suspenseful, interesting characters. Recommended.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .