The Blueprint by Wesley Cross is a cyberpunk political thriller and corporate conspiracy. The former is virtually unknown in the genre while the latter is usually, “guys bust in to steal stuff” not “a bunch of guys use illegal stock manipulation in order to facilitate a hostile takeover. Actually, no, they did that in Hardwired by Jon Walter Williams and that may be the only time in history that the heroes successfully beat the megacorporations in a way I completely believe.
The premise is that it is the near-future, maybe a couple of decades, with 9/11 as well as the 2008 Banking Crisis in recent memory. Corporations have become even more powerful and started using mercenary teams to eliminate competitors as well as intimidate businessmen into selling their property to those attempting to buy them out. The police have grown so jaded about the prospect that they don’t even respond to these sorts of calls.
Jason Hunt manages to barely survive an attempt on his his and wife’s life when she accepts a job offer from a cybernetics developer. This is only the start of his problems as they’re soon faced with a cancer scare, people determined to put him underground, and a potential coup happening in the United States government. The conspiracy webs are thickly woven throughout the story and I was reminded pleasantly of Tom Clancy without a cyberpunk sheen. Wesley Cross lacks the former’s excesses, though, like lecturing the reader and using ten words when one would suffice.
I really enjoyed the characters and watching them try to figure out how to deal with enemies who have billions of dollars and a bunch of surprisingly well-developed sociopaths on their payroll. This includes attempting to get their own resources and making contact with other people they think might be able to help. The technology level is established firmly here as well. It’s not a bunch of chrome cyborgs punching things but setting up that to occur in the future.
Despite its somewhat more grounded premise, I wouldn’t say this is a particularly “realistic” book. In addition to its fun action scenes, some of the events stretch reader credibility like the fact that anyone wouldn’t think Jason Hunt is a massive fraudster after his hostile takeover using computer hacker trickery. The thing is, “realism” is overrated and the story benefits strongly from the believability of the characters, which is more important. Besides, a lot more overt fraud has been gotten away with in RL.
Wesley Cross also notably eschews the usual moral ambiguity of the genre as his protagonists are very good and his antagonists are complete scum. A warning that a sexual assault is implied to happen in the book as part of the villain’s activities for those who are sensitive to said things. However, generally The Blueprint is an action and intrigue-filled thriller that will appeal to both fans of spy fiction as well as those who like near-future sci-fi.
I was well and truly engrossed by The Blueprint at the end and eager to pick up the next installment of the series. Cyberpunk is too often limited to street punks trying heists against megacorporations while this gives us an unusal hero in a white collar businessman as well as some ex-veterans. I think it adds a very different sort of feel and I could easily see this adapted to a regular network television show rather than streaming. The Blueprint is a great book and I think a good example of its genre.