This book sort of defies classification. It feels a bit like an odd couple buddy cop movie, a social satire, a sci-fi adventure, and more. It’s an enjoyable ride without a clear identity, but maybe that’s part of the fun of it.
Suitland, Maryland, is the home to the United States Municipal Survey. This straight-laced federal agency is charged with helping American cities reach their full potential by making their processes more effective and efficient. The protagonist is a suit named Henry. Even at the USMS, he is known for being a boring and weird guy – which is saying something considering the dorky nature of the agency. Despite his passion for the agency and, in particular, transportation projects, he is an outsider. However, he is also something of an inside as he has the ear of Garrett – the head of the USMS.
After some software goes awry and the USMS’ reputation takes a national nosedive, Garrett sends Henry to Metropolis (our NYC stand-in, I think) to work some issues off the book. Henry’s partner for the mission is Owen, who is not exactly who he seems to be. Henry and Owen uncover a wild plot led by a USMS agent gone rogue and his followers. They have to race against the clock to save Metropolis, their own hides, and maybe the world?
The plot sounds like it could just be a typical Clancy-esque thriller. Still, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally sad, and also insightful about how the status quo treats large populations within our American cities. As a former policy wonk at the state level, I got a particular kick out of the bureaucratic nature of the USMS and the mix of policy and local politics. There is also an AI character charmingly reminiscent of John Slattery, and that alone bumps the book up a half star.
If you’re looking for something a little different and light for the summer, you could do worse!