Another Tale of Two Thrillers

Covers of The Beijing Conspiracy and Spook Country

One of my six special vices is reading thrillers, often very trashy ones. So it was an especially wonderful pleasure to read two thrillers in a week — from opposite ends of the trashiness spectrum.

Adrian D’Hagé‘s action thriller The Beijing Conspiracy is like demolishing a slab of VB with mates on a Friday night. It’s loud, fast-paced and perhaps a little clichéd. But it’s great fun and you know you’ll be back for more. I ploughed through it in less than 24 hours.

By comparison, William Gibson‘s Spook Country is like a richly textured cabernet merlot. Take it slowly to appreciate the subtleties, and your time will be generously rewarded.

He was Brigadier Adrian d’Hagé when I first encountered him as Head of Defence Public Relations in Canberra. Him, not me. I was working for ABC Radio in Adelaide. I didn’t realise then that he’s a Genuine War Hero, recipient of the Military Cross for something he did in Vietnam. He subsequently headed up defence planning for the Sydney Olympics, became a research scholar in Arab & Islamic Studies, a wine scientist and a ski instructor. Oh, and a best-selling novelist. A complete failure in life.

His first novel The Omega Scroll wasn’t just a beautifully-timed entry into the market, following Mr Brown’s over-rated thing about secret scrolls, it was a fine read. This second novel is just as good — and just as perfectly timed.

The Beijing Conspiracy concerns a terrorist plot planned for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. It involves Muslims (non-Arab), biological warfare, corrupt politicians (American), an independently-minded scientist (Australian, female), a hunky secret agent (American, FBI, male), a love interest (see preceding) and everything you could pack into a novel like this. I don’t think I’ll be giving away too much if I mention that Sydney is the target of one particularly creative terrorist operation.

I suspect d’Hagé puts his own thoughts into the mouths of his characters — in this book anger with the corruption of of American politicians regarding the Iraq War, in The Omega Scroll anger with Vatican corruption. But I’m sure he’d tell me that this is just a work of fiction. After all, the evil American corporation connected to the Vice-President is a Big Pharma outfit called Halliwell, which is nothing even remotely like Halliburton.

The Beijing Conspiracy Is A Great Read. Yes, structured absolutely according to the genre, but that’s the point. Can’t wait for a movie.

Now William Gibson…

What can you say about the Grand Master of Cyberpunk that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. So I won’t bother trying.

I only need to say that Spook Country is a worthy addition to the Master’s bibliography, and quote a few words from the Wired interview.

Like Pattern Recognition before it, William Gibson’s eighth novel, Spook Country, feels like dictation from the zeitgeist. Its “illegal facilitators,” non-existent magazines, terrorists, pirates, junkies, mad art dealers, and WMD are all woven together into something more unsettling and blackly comic than anything he’s done before.

Buy this book, and then make sure you have plenty of uninterrupted time to read it.

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