Friday, August 5, 2016

The Director

The Director
© 2014 David Ignatius
384 pages

The first week at a new job is rough for anyone, but what if you're the new director of the CIA and a German kid off the street just informed you that every agent in Europe is exposed?  Such is the promising hook of The Director, a novel  involving  conspiracies within conspiracies, told through meeting after meeting. The news that the CIA's internal networks are compromised grows more ominous after the German is found with a Russian bullet in his head, but for most of the work the 'action' consists of the Director's agent flitting from town to town,  reading up on his Globalist British Banking Conspiracy literature and  recruiting a cyber League of Shadows to take down said conspiracy. Everyone else sips mineral water and talks. And talks....and talks...and....talks.  The director also occasionally receives ominous quotations from Cicero.

I found The Director to be utterly tedious, as most of the book consists of people who enjoy hearing themselves talk spinning riddles around the increasingly frustrated director. (He's not so much an actor as a coordinator, bringing the plot together in his office.)  There are some positive points, however.  Some bits of description leap out; "the cowl of a foreign accent shrouded his voice". The author, a D.C. journalist, offers an interesting flavor to the hacking conspiracy; early on,  people are recruited into it using references to the Illuminitas trilogy. The author claims this is a cult classic among hackers, and while I can't vouch for that, this playing-with geek culture is definitely different from the ordinary international thriller. The problem is that all the conversation of this book isn't all that thrilling. Some of it borders on pompous, as though the characters were straining to be dramatic. I just imagined and pictured them as Hollywood personalities to make it tolerable (and amusing).  There were very few people in this novel I enjoyed reading about -- and I certainly had no interest in following them to the supermarket to consider competing brands of Greek yogurt, or to Berlin's sex-clubbing scene.

Interesting in spots, obscene in others, but on the whole rather dull.

Trojan Horse, Mark Russinovich.  Also a cyberthriller, but buckets more fun.

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