Volume 28, Number 2-3, Winter, Spring 2010

The Prisoner

By Carlos J. Cortes

Spectra/Ballantine Books, 2009
Reviewed by Fred Curtis Moulton

Carlos J. Cortes’s novel, The Prisoner, was recently announced as finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award — www.philipkdickaward.org.

This book is a page turner. The novel moves quickly even in those spots where there is an info dump to bring the reader up to speed on the technology central to the novel. This future technology is a method of putting humans in a state of hibernation. The hibernation method is used to replace traditional prisons. The state and federal prisons become obsolete as prisoners put in the new ultra secure high tech hibernation facilities. The Department of Homeland Security has been on a power grab and exerts great influence and control.

The Prisoner opens with a team being processed into the facility and put into hibernation. The reason is so that they can break out and take a particular prisoner with them: someone who was never convicted of a crime and supposedly died in a car crash several years before.

The escape goes through the sewers of Washington D.C. and provides a lot of interesting background about sewers and what you find there. The personal relationships of the main characters are revealed during the course of the novel and provide a richer texture than just the typical thriller.

Given that this is a novel about abuse of government power, there is dialog about the general issues of the need for transparency and of the abuse of government power. Some readers may want more philosophical substance; however, I think the author aimed at a level which is sufficient for the more sophisticated reader but does not lose those readers who are reading primarily for the thrill of the story.

I found the novel very enjoyable and much better than what one usually gets in this type of novel. The characters in the novel are rich enough to carry the plot. This novel is set over 40 years in the future which is one point that did not feel quite right. To me it would have read better if it was set 10 to 15 years in the future, but this is a minor quibble. This novel gets my recommendation.

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