cover image Loose Cannon

Loose Cannon

Dean Ing. Forge, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87194-9

Ing takes direct aim at the reader's sense of humor--connecting more often than not--in this lighthearted thriller about a Silicon Valley engineer forced into hiding after one of his inventions attracts the interest of the wrong people. Rob Tarrant, a mild-mannered career man at enormous General Standards Corp., has high hopes for his miniature, remote-controlled flying machine, which can hover high above the ground, taking pictures or chemically sensing any number of things too small for the eye or nose to detect--even pollution levels or pest infestation in crops. Tarrant expects praise and a promotion when he takes his so-called Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to his boss, the smooth-talking Ethan Lodge. And indeed, Tarrant's life does change instantly, but not for the better. Bewilderingly, he goes from being a faceless Silicon Valley drone to one of the most wanted men in the country, chased by, among others, U.S. and Israeli intelligence agents. After the first attempt on his life, the resourceful Tarrant goes to ground, employing various schemes and disguises to survive. Relying on wacky friends and family to elude his clumsy pursuers, he spends the bulk of his time trying to figure out why everyone is so riled about his seemingly innocuous UAV. Ing (The Nemesis Mission; The Skins of Dead Men), himself a longtime engineer and tinkerer, finds great sport in poking fun at lots of targets--Silicon Valley's self-importance, corporate arrogance, engineering nerdiness and government bumbling. The thriller as farce is only one of Ing's modes--he also writes sci-fi-inflected suspense novels and more serious techno-thrillers--but it is his best. The witty repartee and situational humor of his latest amusement are strained at times, but Ing continues to mine a profitable side vein in a field crowded with the claims of more conventional thriller writers. (Nov.)