Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Where's MacGyver When You Really Need Him?: Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski

Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski

By page 7, there's a body on the floor and a villain. But that's not the only body, and not the only villain that Severance Package has to offer - they multiply like bloody, diabolically evil bunny rabbits.

The book's premise is simple, yet inventive. One Saturday morning, David Murphy summons seven critical employees to the 36th floor of a blandly modern Philadelphia office park. There, he reveals to them that their office is a front company for a government intelligence agency that is being deactivated, and as a precautionary measure, he has to kill all of them before offing himself.

Now, David has gone to the trouble of whipping up poisoned mimosas that will dispatch each of them quickly and painlessly, but to stifle any troublemakers, he's also set the elevator to bypass their floor and rigged the fire stair doors with sarin gas bombs.

As one might expect, the employees do not take the news well. However, it's not a simple case of joining forces to outwit their murderous boss. These are, after all, employees of a secret government intelligence agency, and each one has his or her own agenda, vendetta, or mission to carry out.

Mostly. There is one employee who never quite fit in with the others, one who doesn't carry himself with government-trained killing machine competence. Even David Murphy isn't quite sure why this man has been included on his kill list.

His name is Jamie Debroux. He's a happy husband and new father. He writes press releases. And now, he is marked for death. Our Jamie is no MacGyver, no John McClane, no Jack Bauer. He is a soft-bellied office schlub with no previously untapped resourcefulness, bravery, or ingenuity. Jamie is screwed, or he would be, if not for an ace up the sleeve so secret and perverse, even Jamie doesn't know about it.

Duane Swierczynski is a relatively new voice in the neo-pulp genre, and it's a voice that is lurid, violent, cinematic, and big as day. And also, it is wicked awesome. Though I've never read a book with action quite so relentless, Swierczynski also paces everything brilliantly, with a twist ending that I guarantee, you'll never see coming.

Alongside Child 44, Severance Package is my top recommendation for a hardcore summertime read.

If you've ever secretly imagined that if the bomb, the zombie apocalypse, the killer bees, the rogue virus, the Big One, ever hit, YOU'D be the one to escape with all your loved ones, pets, and precious momentos intact, this book is for you.

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