Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Splinter Cell: Aftermath review

    The Splinter Cell series is a tremendously fun set of video games. Playing Sam Fisher, you take on various terrorist organizations using stealth tactics and the occasional bit of action in order to save the Free World from destruction. The stakes are always high in the video games and this is just the same in the spin-off fiction.

    Splinter Cell: Aftermath is a follow-up to the Blacklist game. Taking place roughly a few months after the events of Sadiq's attack on the United States, it begins with Igor Kasperov (possibly the most generic Eastern European-sounding name since Boris Badenov) being informed that a secret cyber-weapon he'd been working on for decades is needed for deployment against the West.

    Believing this is at the instigation of the oligarchs as opposed to the President, Igor goes into hiding but the GRU intend to find him no matter the cost. Sam Fisher and the rest of Fourth Echelon proceed to track down Igor in hopes of offering him sanctuary, as well as learning whether or not the Russians have an alternative to his cyberweapon.

    The book is mostly interested in in telling its original story of yet another set of madmen out to destroy the world rather than following up on Blacklist but there's a few interesting tidbits, nevertheless, like Sam Fisher's continued distrust of Anna Grimsdottir as well as his relationship with former arms-dealer Kobin.

    Anna Grimsdottir betrayed Sam by faking his daughter's death in Conviction and lying to him about it for three years while Kobin participated in the act. The simple fact Sam will never forgive either of them is a nice bit of realism and there's no "shake hands after earning each others' respect" moment. The bonds between the characters have been permanently severed and, at best, they can work together.

    The author creates a wholly original enemy for Sam to deal with in a psychopathic GRU agent called the Ice Maiden. Honestly, given she murders an innocent women in front of Kasperov's daughter in order to make her talk, I think the author is a little too kind to the character. While I enjoyed having Sam face off against a Bond villainess, the character was a little too one-note to warrant any real sympathy.

     I appreciated the nuance Igor Kasperov and his daughter were treated with as well, a pair of Russians who had grown up in different eras that both had their own values but still loved one another. I also liked the fact Igor wasn't eager to betray his country despite the fact elements of it were eager to kill him. There's a big difference between not wanting to be party to a terrorist attack versus wanting to defect after all.

     The book loses some points with its one-dimensional portrayal of Iran, especially given the fact the Blacklist defied stereotype by having them as not supporting terrorist attacks against the USA. It's interesting, also, they didn't bother to pick up the plot of Blacklist since there could have been any number of interesting stories to tell about Sadiq or his terrorist organization's remnants. Then again, none of the books ever bring in events of the games save in the most superficial ways.

    In conclusion, Aftermath is a pretty fun bit of spy fiction but not essential by any stretch of the imagination. It's very similar to the other novels in the fact it's just a bit of literary candy for an afternoon's read.


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