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Skinner Hardcover – July 9, 2013
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*Starred Review* This tour de force features two of the most interesting characters we’ve seen in years. Skinner, a savant-like killer who struggles to interpret emotions and to speak with normal affect, spent his formative years as part of a bizarre experiment—an origin story that unfolds piece by broken piece, each one with fascinating complications. His job is to protect Jae, a damaged, emotionally fragile robotics expert and data analyst with an amazing capacity to sift meaning from massive streams of information. She’s supposed to find the source of an attack on the U.S. power grid. But the motives of the people who’ve hired them are maddeningly elusive, and, as the job leads them through Europe toward an unlikely plot in a Mumbai slum, they have to wonder whether they’re pawns in one of the most circuitous bait-and-switches of all time. Huston’s world, where powerful private security firms battle each other for access to the “new markets” created by global chaos, is cynical, chilling, and eminently believable. The plot itself may be a bit of a stretch, but this is mind-bendingly original, from the characters, to the dialogue, to the sensory-overloaded world that feels eerily like the one we’re about to live in. Add Huston (Sleepless, 2010) to the A-list. --Keir Graff
"A thriller for the Edward Snowden Summer . . . Mr. Huston is renowned for making the fantastic believable."―Wall Street Journal
"Skinner is of the moment. . . . While Skinner has its share of bone-crunching fight scenes, Huston channeled [his] anger into a book with a highly complex picture of how people live at opposite ends of the economic spectrum."―Los Angeles Times
"Its fluency with both the world of spies and of high technology, like Olen Steinhauer by way of William Gibson, makes it a gripping read, [and] the humanity Skinner finds in himself is genuinely touching."―USA Today
"Fun and inventive . . . An espionage thriller for the information age with echoes of John Le Carre and William Gibson."―CNN.com
"Skinner is an up-to-the-second thriller, combining big ideas, gouts of blood and a fascinating mix of damaged characters."―Cleveland Plain Dealer
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Skinner specializes in "asset protection", a glorified international bodyguard so deadly that his reputation alone protects many of his assets. After having been phased out by his handlers who have grown to fear him themselves, he is called back into service to protect Jae, a beautiful but flawed data analyst and roboticist who has the uncanny ability to "see" the converging themes within mountains of information in a dizzying manner. Together, they race around the world seeking the basis of a cyber terrorist attack on the US while slowly uncovering a massive conspiracy that threatens not only their lives but perhaps world peace.
"Skinner" combines the worlds of espionage and spies with the ever expanding world of high technology and cyber terrorism. Unfortunately, the pacing is uneven, even ponderous at times, and the plot is labyrinthine filled with red herrings, distractions, and confusing motivations. Paradoxically for this reader was the plain fact that I never felt really invested in any of the major characters; indeed, there was a coldness and remoteness about the lead characters that prevented me from truly caring what happened to them. Some of this might be expected regarding a killer whose scientist parents raised in a Skinner Box for 12 years, but every expressed emotion among the major players seemed more "programmed" than truly felt.
I remain a Charlie Huston fan but will look forward to a return to the Joe Pitt, Hank Thompson characters before another Skinner effort.
The story? Dangerous man willing to go to any length to protect the "asset" for which he was hired. This asset is a brilliant, though troubled, woman who can see what others miss when untangling mountains of information. Her mind can't stop moving without the aid of drugs and booze, but she has nearly pulled herself together for one more job.
There's intrigue-a-plenty, lots of lying, gamesmanship and heroes galore, including an unlikely ally in his grave.
Skinner isn't Joe Pitt, nor should he be. Mr. Huston has created another tough, yet somehow tender, man we can enjoy without having to compare the two.
Skinner is a different kind of book and I guess a very good one in its genre (international espionage thriller) with enough dose of gritty violence to confirm this is, indeed, a Huston thriller - but perhaps less enjoyable than the others, as this Skinner guy seems a bit of a super-hero with supernatural powers; which may, or may, not appeal the reader.
Still, highly recommended and a classic page-turner - but I'd recommend to read it only if you've run out of Huston books to read first.
Most recent customer reviews
a Charlie Huston novel.
just buy it... its safer!!!!
"SKINNER" is worth the $$$$
This evolving tone reminds me of James Ellroy in a lot of ways: there are no...Read more
The plot, actions, and characters were fine.Read more