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Empyre    by Josh Conviser order for
by Josh Conviser
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Josh Conviser's Empyre is a sequel to his near-future SF thriller Echelon, which I unfortunately have not read. However, I was able to glean a good idea of what happened in the first book from the sequel. A global spy system named Echelon kept the world at peace by subtle manipulation, carried out by bioengineered agents, to maintain the status quo. Two such agents, Ryan Laing and Sarah Peters, brought an end to this era in world history by destroying Echelon. Though they did it for the right reasons, it led to chaos, regret, and a parting.

Empyre opens to the horror of a bioterrorist attack in Tibet. Then Conviser takes us to Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, where Ryan Laing seeks to forget his past, the new world he created - and Sarah. Ryan is now a combination of man and machine - nanotechnology drones have made him a superman whose body can instantly heal itself from what would otherwise be deadly damage. Sara, though devastated by Ryan's leaving her, has remained in the world. She continues to exploit her gift of accurate event projection, working for the highest bidder (currently an organization called Empyre) to raise the money she needs for the ongoing body augmentation to which she has become addicted.

Unfortunately, Sarah is being ruthlessly manipulated and her puppet master ('A man willing to become a monster to hold humanity together') has had included in her body mods the control to release a deadly disease, turning her into a carefully targeted Typhoid Mary to execute the scenarios she has herself predicted. As the story unfolds in continual - often very gory - action, we see a succession of extremely ruthless people who believe that the end justifies the means and carry that conviction to draconian extremes. A CIA agent named Frank Savakis, who has uncovered a small edge of the conspiracy - and generally means well - forces Ryan back into the killing grounds, where he will do whatever it takes to save Sarah.

Her back to the wall and finally understanding why she's being used, Sarah enlists the help of an old friend, ex-Echelon agent and superhacker Dave Madda - and so turns the tide. Empyre unleashes a tsunami of action and betrayals, in which its bioengineered protagonists, each made vulnerable in a variety of ways, continually struggle to survive and get enough ahead of the game to fight back against their controllers. If you enjoy the adrenaline rush of speed-of-light SF thrillers, then don't miss either Echelon or Empyre.

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