The Spartak Trigger is an exciting and hilarious kick in the brain that uses humor as self-commentary.
I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when The Spartak Trigger landed in my lap… top. I was told that it was a spy-thriller novel with a sarcastic sense of humor, so being me, a guy who loves spy-thrillers and has a sarcastic sense of humor, I was intrigued. I don’t have much time for reading these days, due to being one of FanboyNation’s resident tastemakers, but I made time because it sounded interesting, and because I was sitting in an ophthalmologist’s waiting room for a good couple of hours while my mom had something magical done to her peepers.
It started out a bit slow, but even on the first page Bryce Allen’s wry humor was on full display. The main character, disgraced cop Shane Bishop, is kind of a jerk, but I was very easily able to find him likable anyway. The plot, told in the first person with a mystery narrator jumping in from time to time, centers on Bishop as he works as a set-up artist, taking down his client’s enemies by setting them up to take down themselves. After his latest botched job, and finding himself framed for murder and being blackmailed, Bishop heads to Russia to save the world… wide web.
For a first novel, The Spartak Trigger definitely held my interest and left me wanting more. A sardonic, surreal, and satirical neo-noir, science fiction, spy thriller with a little to offend and entertain everybody. It is intelligent, intriguing, quirky, and never once takes itself seriously, making it one of the funnest books I’ve read in a long time. Allen has a unique voice with a fresh take on the genre, and I hope he never stops writing.
The protagonist is an amoral, sexist, cynical, sarcastic, coke-fueled asshole, but beneath the surface beats a heart of gold, well, copper at least. Bishop struggles to make himself seem the tough guy, because in his business he has to, but you can tell that it is all a lie he tells himself. Lines such as – “The peanuts are stale and I suddenly wish I’d picked a classier joint at which to ruin this assclown’s life.” – are mere chest-puffing for chest-puffing’s sake, and when we get to the moment he is reunited with the daughter he hasn’t seen in years we get to see the man beneath the facade. And the way he argues with the narrator takes a bit of getting used to, but is eminently interesting and entertaining. This is a book I wish I had written, because it is brilliant, and so that I could get the credit and kudos Allen surely has coming.
One of my favorite things The Spartak Trigger has going on is that even as it nails each and every spy novel cliche and trope it brilliantly skewers them, using humor as self-commentary brilliantly. There are plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing, and the stakes get higher and higher as the book progresses, sort of. If you have the patience to get through the first 10-15 pages, to where the story really gets going, you will be rewarded with an exciting and hilarious kick in the brain that I am glad I made the time for. Bravo, Bryce E Allen. Bravo.