This book is fairly new territory for me as a reader who primarily sticks to science fiction, fantasy, and the occasional non-fiction book. Fiction set in our world, in current times, simply hasn’t been on my radar. But Resurrection Express enticed me with its cover, featuring the skyline of my hometown, and from the first couple of pages I was hooked. How this thriller compares to others in the genre, I really cannot say. If you enjoy action, lots of plot turns, suspense, and don’t mind gore and violence, this book was written for you. Let me just caution you that when I say “gore and violence,” I really mean it. This book does not flinch.
Elroy Coffin is a hacker who can break into any lock or get past any firewall, but can’t remember the love of his life beyond vague sense memories of her enticing smell. As the book opens, he is languishing in maximum security prison believing his wife to be dead and cursing her murderer. He’s approached by a mysterious and powerful woman who offers to get him out of jail if he helps her hack into an outrageously secured vault. The vault of his wife’s supposed murderer. Oh, and his wife is very much alive, and this woman knows how to find her.
What seems a fairly standard set-up for a crime story involving a crew of shady military and hacker types working a job is quickly turned on its side as everything goes awry. Elroy only wants to find his wife and get revenge on the man who kidnapped her, but he ends up uncovering something much bigger and with stakes reaching very far above his pay-grade. If you think from this description that this is another case of a woman being “fridged” for the benefit of a male character’s arc, let me reassure you that it isn’t cut and dried by any means. If you’re looking for a techno-thriller about hacking, with the carefully researched technical details that another author like Neal Stephenson might provide, this is not that book. The author doesn’t try to impress you with his knowledge of coding, firewalls, or the deep web; instead describing Elroy’s hacking much like he describes Elroy’s fights – as if it were just another type of violence to perpetrate. There’s enough engaging descriptions of what is happening on Elroy’s monitor that the average non-technical person can read this and visualize hacking various security protocols without getting bogged down in technical jargon.
I don’t want to describe much more of the plot because experiencing the twists and turns is the joy of this ride. Romano doesn’t stint on the violence, nor on the action scenes, and they’re written in a taut and careful manner that allows you to visualize exactly what’s happening while maintaining Elroy’s first-person point of view and his perspective on it all. The pacing for the majority of the book grabs you by the arm and runs you from action set piece to the next, with very little time to catch your breath in between. This lead to me reading well past my bedtime on many occasions because dammit if another chapter didn’t start with a bang and I had to see what happens next. This is one of those books where you want to read as fast as possible to see what’s coming and have to consciously slow down to make sure you catch all the wry humor around the edges of the non-stop action.
Elroy is a brilliant hacker and a trained killer, yet short-sided at times. He’s out of his depth enough that he doesn’t feel like a male version of a Mary Sue (Marty Lou?). The various people he meets along the way – gang members, soldiers, other hackers, generally shady people of questionable repute – could easily have been one-note throwaways but most are described in such a way as to become real people, even when they’re only around for a brief time. You have the feeling there’s a rich backstory for each one of them just waiting to be uncovered. The exception is the man who kidnapped his wife, who is so horrifying in his cruel inhumanity that he almost comes off as a caricature.
The only quibble I had with the plot was that it perhaps takes a turn too many before bringing itself to the endgame. But the end itself is a delight, wrapping up in a satisfying and unexpected conclusion. Make sure you have enough time to finish the last few chapters in one sitting, because you won’t be able to put it down at that point.