‘The Spartak Trigger:’ Book Review

If I had to describe The Spartak Trigger (and, as it happens, I do—that’s the nature of reviews), I would say that it’s a good book disguised as a bad book. At first glance, everything about this book says that you should hate it. The protagonist is not just thoroughly unlikeable but actively loathsome. The plot is thin and far fetched. Perhaps worst of all, it employs a number of hackneyed tropes and devices throughout and resolves plot conflicts with coincidences that strain credulity even for fiction.

However, what sets The Spartak Trigger apart from a hundred third-rate spy novels is that it KNOWS all of this about itself and wears these flaws on its sleeve. And, underneath it all, the book is actually really well written, to the point where I didn’t want to put it down.

Meet Shane Bishop: a former corrupt cop and current thoroughly despicable human being. Much of what comes out of his mouth is sexist, racist, homophobic, ignorant, or just plain filthy. He’s also an alcoholic, drug addict, and frequenter of low-class brothels. He works for a company that specializes in framing innocent people for crimes. A company wants to get rid of a high-level employee but doesn’t want to pay their exorbitant severance package? Call Sancus, Inc. and Shane Bishop will plant cocaine on them, or trick them into committing corporate espionage, or otherwise find a way to put them in an unflattering position that nullifies their contract.

Then, one day, a job goes south very quickly. Shane’s employer and several of his recent clients all end up dead, and Shane finds himself on the run from—and then forced into working for—a very powerful and very evil corporation called Tetrace.

As the book progresses, it becomes clear that Tetrace is actually Google. The novel is filled with names of fictitious companies, websites, and people, all of which are thinly veiled caricatures of things in the real world, from Apple to Facebook to deceased pitchman Billy Mays, and many others. It can be a little confusing at first following the altered lingo that necessarily follows these name changes (“Let me Tetrace that!”), but you’ll pick up on it easily enough.

What makes The Spartak Trigger interesting is that Shane Bishop knows full well that he’s in a third-rate novel. It’s told in first person from his point of view, but he makes frequent references to an unseen, third-person omniscient narrator who is also describing—and ultimately deciding—the action. Though we don’t hear from him directly, the narrator is as much a character in this book as anyone else. Shane argues with him on certain points. He makes fun of him for particularly flowery prose and complains when plot points seem too far fetched, or too coincidental. The narrator even argues back on occasion, as related to us by Shane.

This third-person narrator is the one responsible for the terrible book that we would probably hate if we read it. But, we never do read that book—only get glimpses of it. Instead, we get to read a very different book that shows us the whole ridiculous story through Shane’s cynical, thoroughly reprehensible point of view. That book, with its self-aware, tongue-in-cheek vibe, is much more interesting. It’s compelling, funny, and action-packed. At times, it’s over-the-top and, at times, it’s just bizarre, but it’s always fun and definitely worth a read.

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