I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Performance Anomalies by Victor Robert Lee
Published by Independent on 15 January 2013
Reading Challenges: 2013 Zodiac Challenge
Performance Anomalies is an intriguing thriller featuring an unusual protagonist, Cono. His old lover Xiao Li has been kidnapped and calls him from Kazakhstan begging for help. The friend he relies on for help double-crosses him and demands Cono help him collect oil contract bids. Things spiral out of control as Cono has to juggle stockpiled uranium, wannabe terrorists and a Beijing agent determined to take him down.
The blurb says that Cono is the product of a genetic mutant which had me immediately thinking of X-Men but apart from the ability to move faster than the human eye can perceive, his other talents seems to manifest more as a heightened sense of awareness as he can detect minuscule changes in facial features and has a felicity for languages and dancing. I found it quite difficult to connect with his character as like a chameleon, he is constantly adjusting his behaviour to fit in with his surroundings. This makes it harder to grasp the man underneath – even Cono seems to have difficulty working out who he is as a person. He shows remarkable and somewhat dogged devotion to his friends even when they let him down. I would have liked him to be a little more flawed as he seems to succeed at everything he tries his hand at whether it be making money, scoring ladies or getting out of tight situations. The contacts he makes all have their own agendas and he has to use his special skills to help him survive and repeatedly free Xiao Li. Three strong women feature in this novel that were able to survive in harsh conditions. Lesser women would have crumbled but these women persevere. I was far more attached to Dimira than any of the other characters because she was the one true innocent caught up in this mess.
The world that Lee has created is quite bleak as everyone is out for what they can get even if it means stabbing others in the back. I’m not familiar with Kazakhstan but the back-room politicking drew me in as did the description of Almaty with so many different cultures butting up against each other. The pacing was affected by the flashbacks and although I liked finding out more about Cono’s background, I think they could have been integrated a little more seamlessly so they didn’t come across as info dumps. I did feel as if I had jumped into the middle of a series as characters kept alluding to past events I had no knowledge of. It was a bit disorientating especially as you have to concentrate to keep track of the rapidly shifting alliances. Despite this, the plot had lots of twists that kept me entertained. There is quite a bit of violence and senseless killing which is tempered by Cono’s introspection.
I enjoyed this novel even though Cono was difficult to get a handle on. The plot holds your attention and the setting is particularly evocative.