“Book Review: Evolution”
Reviewed by Tucker Lieberman
This time it’s personal. Again.
An old college friendship, long ruptured, is beyond any hope of repair now that one of the friends is embroiled with anti-American terrorists. The other, former Pentagon staffer and pilot Michael Dolan, races the clock to save his own life and the lives of others in the latest installment in John Casey’s Devolution trilogy.
The premise established in the first book, Devolution, is recapped at the beginning of this second book, Evolution.
In the first book, Dolan accepts a CIA assignment as a counterterrorism spy. He’s tasked to get information from his former friend Sharif, whom he met during his days at the Sorbonne. Sharif is the son of Hakeem Lefebvre, an Algerian oil mogul who has become the leader of an al-Qa’ida-linked group. For Dolan, it’s complicated; Sharif is responsible for the death of his college girlfriend. However, feeling insufficiently trained and uncomfortable with the CIA monitoring him, Dolan goes rogue and decides to pursue the terrorists himself.
The second book, Evolution, opens with a terrorist attack in Jordan. The masterminds have handed over a container of pressurized liquid to a teenage recruit with instructions to let it drip into the water supply near the U.S. embassy. This causes an outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever, a malady related to Ebola and even more lethal. The U.S. ambassador and dozens of embassy employees and their families fall ill.
It doesn’t take long for the United States to figure out what happened. It is interpreted as an act of war committed by Hakeem Lefebvre’s terrorist group. Beyond that, there appears to be an assassination threat against Dolan, who is teaching at Boston University. The government brings him under its protection at a military base in another state and then sends him on an international mission.
The Lefebvres, father and son, are sought dead or alive. Dolan is enthusiastic to finally confront his old college friend about the murder of his girlfriend. He believes this will be a winning tactic and that he alone can “leverage” his knowledge of it “to break Sharif.” Then, perhaps, the United States will have a chance at eradicating the terrorist group and stopping the viral outbreak.
Dolan realizes, however, that the intensity of his personal feelings will not be enough to dictate the terms of the battle, as “hate was an imprecise motivator.” There are bigger fish to fry. As much as he still wants to believe that his own grievances are significant, the real problem “wasn’t just Sharif and his father anymore.”
With strong mechanical and technological precision, Evolution gives readers solid grounding and pulls them through realistic 21st-century action. From the opening scene that begins with a terrorist under a manhole cover with a cordless drill, all the way to the use of “gait recognition technology” that can identify people “by the way they walked,” readers are plunged into this world of immediate, unrelenting physical threats.
You might just find a hero in Michael Dolan. On the one hand, he’s a guy who does whatever he has to do, unhesitatingly. When he learns that his life is at risk and that he will once again be spirited away to fight terrorists, he’s more concerned about finessing his professional situation at the university. As for the conflict? He’s ready to go. He also has these quiet moments of introspection. For a long time before this, he’d felt “broken and marginally sociopathic,” but in this novel, he’s on a path of practicing more empathy and has reached a better mental state. Although his relationship with a woman has recently ended and he doesn’t have many emotional ties, he cares about being a good person who others will want to know.
With the fierce determination of Michael Dolan as the star of the show, Evolution proves to be a strong spy thriller with global and personal stakes.
Genre: Spy Thriller
Print Length: 326 pages
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