Sunday, December 30, 2007
Cuba Libre or Mentirita anyone?
"The Powers That Be" is an ambitious and intoxicating first in the new Room 59 series.
Room 59 is an independent, ultra secret, black operations agency that goes places and does things that governments can't or won't. Once a mission has been approved by the International Intelligence Agency, the Room 59 operatives, lead and chosen by Kate Cochran, act to eliminate global threats arising from the gritty reality of counterterrorism, international crime, and intrigue. Since Room 59 was designed to operate independently of all known governing bodies, if something - anything - goes wrong, there is no one to call for help.
To accomplish a mandate this big and make a story worth reading, the plot must be well researched, believably set in real places, pay attention to detail, be technically accurate, be built of images that are powerful and yet familiar, and delivered with a directness that pulls no punches. With that accounting, "The Powers That Be" succeeds admirably. This story is complex and necessarily so. The cast of characters is large. The level of technical detail and accuracy adds a clarifying granularity. The imagery sucks you into the story, spins on the bottle cap shut behind you, and locks you in right up to the very last page. It starts the prologue with the search and interrogation of a political prisoner in a Cuban prison, and ends on a deserted beach in Florida with the incoming waves removing any evidence that anyone had been there at all.
The action in this story is positively breathtaking. With simultaneous operations in both Cuba and Florida, there is plenty to keep the pages turning. When a historical complication from the early Sixties is twisted into the mix, events really get rolling.
This is not a tidy "Mission Impossible" sort of story with a neatly compact team of characters. The plot is richer than that. It is dark, gritty and executed with the number of characters (both good guys and bad guys) to realistically pull it off. That number of characters can be challenging to follow at times. The richness of the plot redeems it and would make an excellent foundation for a solid summer blockbuster movie.
A simple twist of lime is the difference between an ordinary rum and Coke and a "Cuba Libre". "The Powers That Be" also has a defining twist. Further, it has the imagery and detail that make it really compelling. One example of that is wrapped in this question: What is the difference between Cuba Libre and a Mentirita, and why is that important to me a world away from the sandy beaches and crowded cities of Cuba? The answer is on page 94 of the book. All the other pages of the book are pretty good too.