4 out of 4 stars
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The year is 2058 and the world's governments have fallen to Supercorporations that rule the world in their stead. In this new world, it's not about what one does, but how one lives. Agent Sliver, an operative for World Inc., has taken this to heart. He does what World, Inc. wants, even if it means killing, and he lives very well for it. All of this changes when an unexpected person emerges during one of his routine missions, bringing with her a conscience. Tom Gariffo's World Incorporated proves to be just as much a warning about the future as it is an excellent read.
At the beginning I thought that Sliver was the boring, standard secret assassin that sometimes crops up in thrillers. Willing to do anything for his company, provided the pay is good, with razor sharp skills and some one-liners to back them up. Yet, I found that he was wholly compelling. Despite the world he lives in, Sliver is well educated about politics and provides an unbiased view of how the world came to be as it is at the start of the book. He already realizes what he does is wrong, and that the world is horribly flawed, but he continues on because that's just how his life is. As his character arc progresses and his conscience becomes more pronounced, he really shines as a character and proves to be this book's main selling point. I'd begun to like him before I'd even finished a quarter of the book, especially for his sense of dark humor. Even more, I liked him because his character contained a surprising amount of depth. Even at the beginning he isn't heartless, just logical. He does what he's told because that's how he gets along in this world. Over time, he begins to question his choices and to consider the true value of freedom.
Kelly, the unregistered civilian that Sliver comes across on his mission, is the character that the author uses to introduce us to Agent Sliver's world. As Kelly learns about the of the supercorporations and the fall of the United States government, so do we. It's through her eyes that we see the rampant consumerism of New Detroit, where citizens are followed by advertisements that are tailored to their interests wherever they go. We also feel her horror when she learns that, yes, the whole world is like that. She also serves as Sliver's conscience from the beginning, before he develops one himself. She nags him, asking him to question his actions, until he truly does. At first, I found their relationship slightly tiring. She hates him, she wants him dead because he's a terrible person. This is emphasized quite a bit in the beginning. Yet, this changes subtly. She comes to trust him; not because she wants to, but because she has to. Over time, this unwilling trust turns into a genuine friendship. Their relationship dynamic proved to be a major element in the book and added to its believability.
This book, while providing an insight to a possible future, was – quite simply – an entertaining read. All the while Sliver and Kelly are dishing out their perspectives on the rise of the supercorporation and the failures of the U.S. government to prevent it (in addition to the philosophical questions that their society brings up), they are key players in a story that is already fascinating. Even with the baggage that the enormity of this dystopian future brings up, Sliver's missions are as exiting to read as they are profound when compared to the bigger picture. This book is not just food for thought, it's a thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. While a section of the book is devoted to news stories detailing how the world came to be as we see it, this proves hugely informative and also led me to consider the plausibility of such events. Even though this section caused a lull in the action, my attention never wavered. Instead, this section made me pay even more attention, as I started to see just how easily our own world could become the one seen in World Incorporated.
I give 4 out of 4 stars for a compelling storyline and fascinating political commentary. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is even remotely interested in politics, or anyone who just wants to read some action-packed science fiction. Some violence is present, which is a given as one of the main characters is an assassin, but the scenes are never overly gory. Tom Gariffo nailed this right on the head; this is as good as dystopian fiction gets.
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