In a world ravaged by international turmoil and uncertainty for the future, author Lucas Sterling presents Srepska, an intense and politically charged novel that is both timely and terrifying.
Fredric is a German intelligence agent that becomes embroiled in the search for Srepska, a mysterious organization that is a cross between organized crime and a global cabal. Somehow this group is instigating chaos around the world, and taking advantage of the turmoil they create. Their name alone strikes fear in the hearts of those in power, but Fredric isn’t one to be cowed away from his duty. However, his life – and the fate of the free world – may hang on what he does next.
Srepska is an expertly crafted thriller, with the deepening web of conspiracy and shadowy dealings being slowly unfurled for readers in a patient, methodical path; every piece of the puzzle is there, but it will take the entire novel for readers to put it together. The minimal descriptions are poignant and sharp, and Sterling has an excellent eye for vividly painting a scene. The pace is fast, but never rushed, and the character development is carefully constructed, even when it comes to minor players. Lars and Fredric make an excellent team, and their differing approach to “getting the job done” creates a strong dynamic that makes them an unlikely, but entertaining pair.
The further the plot progresses, the more dire the situation seems, drawing parallels to the real world, and the often hopeless feeling that people around the world are currently experiencing. What begins as a far-flung conspiracy in Kenya slowly reveals itself to be much larger and more sinister. When the United States suffers a crippling cyber attack, the danger hits much closer to home. With the increasing uncertainty of the global economy in the real world, the tide of nationalism rising, and the techniques of terrorism evolving, this novel feels more ripped from the headlines than it would have a few years ago.
The quality of the writing doesn’t always match up to the intensity of the story, however – particularly when it comes to the dialogue, which often leans toward an old-school noir tone. The terse exchanges and brusque monosyllabic answers of Fredric can often make him feel limited, particularly when paired with the even quieter Lars. The repetition of certain words to describe speech is also notable, and there are times when the dialogue is only a tool to push the plot forward, rather than develop relationships or expand on personalities, which can be frustrating, as it makes the characters seem a bit flat.
All that said, the riveting action and the big-picture conflict of the story supersedes these critiques. What may be missing from character interaction is made up for in the scope of the plot, and this may not be the kind of book where character is the driving force of the narrative. Overall, Srepska is brilliantly written as entertaining fiction, but is also a thoughtful piece about what the dark side of the world truly looks like, and who is actually running the show.
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