Friday, April 24, 2009

Killer Instinct by Joseph Finder

Last night, in a flow of reading that would have been harder to tap-off than Niagra Falls, I finished Killer Instinct by Joseph Finder. Some of you may remember an earlier posting where I discussed reading Finder’s first book, Paranoia. You may remember how I explained that Paranoia was scary in the sense that it opened my eyes to some technological advances that are available—advances that allow people to intrude upon your life, exposing you in ways you might have never dreamed possible. Killer Instinct is just as frightening.

First, an aside: as a writer, I have all but abandoned reading the dust cover of my books. In some ways, I think they give away too much, and I want to be totally surprised by the story line. That was how I approached this book.

The novel opens up with a prologue. Then, with Chapter 1, the narrator jumps the reader back ten months into the storyline. I know how some people feel about prologues. I’ve read enough about how you’re supposed to use them. And while some are put off by prologues, I think Finder’s approach was absolutely necessary. Just like a dust cover, which gives the reader a tease, the prologue in Killer Instinct grips the reader and promises something bad down the road.

As the novel progresses, the reader learns that the narrator, Jason Steadman, is part of a sales team selling electronics. It only takes a few chapters for the reader to see the rivalry between Jason and two other associates on the team, all who are jockeying for position to be the next vice president. Unlike his competition, Jason isn’t as ruthless or political—some might call it aggressive—as he needs to be in order to climb the ladder. But then things start happening. His rivals blow big deals. Jason lands a huge sale he's been working on for almost a year. And while Jason basks in the glow of his good luck, the reader knows that in sales luck is the stuff which only the salesman makes. In Jason’s case, his luck was started by one man: Kurt Semko. As the story progresses, the reader follows Jason as he meets Kurt for the first time, then offers Kurt a chance to work for the company, and finally as he realizes just who Kurt Semko really is. It’s a novel that builds up momentum like a frigate and is hard to stop until the explosive conclusion.

Like Paranoia, in this novel Joseph Finder brings a solid picture of reality in Corporate America, where life is nothing but a chess game. All of the workers, and the company assets, are pawns used so that management can feed their egos and line their pockets. Some may label that viewpoint as “Class Warfare.” Some may say it’s nothing more than a simple conspiracy theory. It can make good fiction, but isn’t based in reality. I don’t know where you stand on the issue, but I can tell you this: while it is not true in all cases (I still believe in the goodness of some people), I have seen a glimpse of how the corporate world operates, and the portrait Finder paints is believable.

What is truly frightening in this book, though, is the revelation of how technology can be used. Once again, Finder shocks the reader by offering a glimpse of how corporate security can watch you. And listen to your conversations. And spy into your life.

Killer Instinct is a great read, and I suggest it is a worthy addition to your library if you enjoy good thrillers.


  1. Sounds like a good book, Stephen. I'll add it to my "to read" list.

  2. Thanks for the review and thumbs up, Stephen. Stuff I read in Time and Newsweek about how technology is being used is scary enough; I can only imagine what a fiction writer with a vivid imagination might come up with to scare the crap out of me.

  3. This sounds great, Stephen. It's on my list.