Thursday, November 6, 2014

Clandestine Daze: Eyes Deep review


    Combining spy-work, urban fantasy, and noir is something which should have been done much earlier. It's a mostly untapped subgenre with only a few books like the Laundry Files series. Eyes Deep by Tim Marquitz is a new entry into it and I hope it has many sequels.

    Theodor Crane (the name of a man he's impersonating) is a doppleganger. He's a type of fairy (called Aels), which live in a dimension alongside ours'. Unlike your traditional Tolkien-esque fairies, the Aels are every bit as modernized and intrigue-ridden as 21st century humanity.

    Dopplegangers are untrusted individuals in the Ael world because they possess the ability to kill people and assume their shape, gaining all of a subject's skills and knowledge. This process is disgusting to both outsiders and dopplegangers because it involves eating their target's eye.

   Needless to say, there's a reason dopplegangers are distrusted.

   Theodor works for A.I., which is the Ael Intelligence service and it is his job to make sure their kind aren't discovered by humans. His current assignment is worse than most because he has to kill an innocent man in order to infiltrate a company close to building technology which could discover the Aels. This assignment is doubly problematic because it comes with a wife and child he will feel affection for due to the memories he inherits.

   Even Theodor finds it sick.

   Thankfully, the worst is avoided by the fact his target's wife and he aren't sexually active. Given the book opens with us witnessing Theodor murdering a man and eating his eye, I'm not sure the author should have backed away from the assignment calling for him to sleep with his target's wife. I was relieved when Theodor didn't, though, and think cop-out or not, it keeps the protagonist from being irredeemable.

   Eyes Deep follows Theodor as he investigates the theft of the technology and how it relates to a bombing on a United States Senator (who was secretly Aelish). Aiding him in this investigation is his sometimes-lover, Jace, who is duplicitous and not-entirely on his side. We also get a sense that A.I. considers Theodor expendable. No one likes a doppleganger, even amongst the fairy spooks, and they'd love to be rid of him.

   No matter how useful his abilities are.

   Eyes Deep is a bit too short for its premise and doesn't investigate the most interesting elements of the character's situation. Most of the eighty-one-page book is about the technology theft and how it relates to fairy politics. Theodor doesn't make full use of his powers and his new family (inherited by murder) is barely touched upon.

   I was far more interested in the deep-cover element of being a Ael secret in a human executive's world. I'd rather read about Theodor's "wife" Erica than Jace, which is probably not what the author intended. Still, the storytelling is good as is the world-building. Theodor is a tortured soul who wants to do good but is being employed by an agency which uses him for evil in the name of the "greater good." While we only get the barest hint of the racial, ethnic, and socio-political politics of the Ael world, we get just enough to keep the story moving without bogging it down in exposition.

   The action is good and if they removed the doppleganger element, this could probably be a decent techno-thriller. Just replace Ted's eye-eating with plastic surgery and inhuman disguise abilities. The character of Jace is a likable femme fatale even if I was more interested in Theodor's family situation.

   This is a fun novella with much potential to be expanded into a full-blown series. I hope if they do a sequel it will be a novel and much more focused on the oddities of being a doppleganger as well as his unnatural co-habitations. The latter is full of human drama and eerie fascination, which is where the best spy fiction lives. I want to read the next one and that tells you all you need to know.

8/10

Buy at Amazon.com

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