Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Agent Zero - Lilith Saintcrow (HRS #1865 - Sept 2015)

Read December 8, 2016

After barely surviving an IED, former US Army soldier Reese was whisked away by a shadowy agency and genetically enhanced. Now a "Super Agent"--smarter, faster, stronger, deadly--Reese executes his missions with precision. But when he's inexplicably drawn to a down-on-her-luck waitress, Reese learns he's not the emotionless man he once thought.

One minute, Holly Candless is getting fifty-buck tips from her favorite hunky customer. The next, she's kidnapped, injected with something and rescued by Reese. Suddenly, they're on the run from the very government agency that wants Reese reprogrammed--and Holly dead. Keeping Holly alive is not only Reese's primary mission--it's his sole chance at love...and survival.

Good story, with a bit of a science fiction feel to it, almost a combination of Spiderman and the Six Million Dollar Man. Reese is a soldier/spy who has been genetically enhanced by the introduction of a virus into his system. His senses, intelligence, and strength are all incredible. He and several others like him are all part of a secret government agency. In this book, Reese has become fascinated by a waitress at a local diner that he visits between assignments. Something about Holly soothes him after particularly rough missions. He doesn't really talk to her, just watches her and leaves.

Holly is alone in the world after her father's death and her divorce from her husband. She hasn't had an easy life. Her military father died of cancer, likely caused by his time in the military. She watched him fight both the disease and the system that should have helped him. After helping put her husband through medical school, he asks for a divorce just as she finds out that there may be something wrong with her too.

Holly is a little freaked out by Reese and the way he watches her, but he's never actually done anything wrong. She gets the feeling that maybe he's just a bit shy. One day he finally asks her to have coffee with him somewhere other than the diner. Though wary, she says yes. Their plans are interrupted when a normal check-in/check-up turns into an attempt to kill him. Worried about Holly's safety after another attempt on him, he discovers that she's been taken, drugged and questioned, and is about to be killed to cover it all up. He rescues her and they go on the run.

I liked the development of their relationship. Reese is super protective and will do whatever he must to keep Holly safe. His supersensitive nose detects a scent about her that he just can't resist, like it is calling just to him. His feelings for her grow stronger, but he worries that the things he has done will make it impossible for her to return those feelings. Ever since Holly found out that she is sick, she has kept people at a distance. She doesn't want any of them going through what she did with her father. She quickly discovers that Reese won't be pushed away, and realizes that she likes the feeling of being cared for by him. A surprise event changes her prognosis, and makes it possible to think about a future, if they can get away from those who are after them. I loved the ending, as Reese is still endearingly awkward about expressing his feelings.

The suspense of the story is really interesting and intense. The agents are supposed to do their jobs without any "emotional noise", ie. conscience, feelings of love, sorrow, guilt, etc. Anyone who develops these tendencies gets reprogrammed or "liquidated". When a doctor who knew only a small part of what was happening learns the truth, he goes off the deep end and decides to eliminate the carriers of the virus. Of course, those in charge can't have that, but their attempts to fix the problem only make things worse. One of the other agents is sent to track down Reese and Holly, but he's actually on their side and has his own agenda. There is also a female agent whose point of view we also get, who really illustrates the effects and pitfalls of the program. She turns out to be much more important than suspected at the beginning. The pursuit of Reese and Holly is intense, and the final confrontation still leaves some questions unanswered. 

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