It is the future and America is an authoritarian police state. Hovik is a former Marine who got caught selling guns to the resistance and is now at a prison camp in Nevada. Hovik isn’t himself a very political man but he is caught up in the bureaucracy so now is assigned to this camp for political prisoners. One day there is an escape and the commandant decides to send all those that were in the work detail that didn’t escape to Camp 351. The prisoners sent to this camp are rumored to be part of medical experiments and no one ever returns. So while being transported, Hovik escapes. With him is a young timid computer hacker. The two evade the security forces and make it to San Francisco. He hooks up with the local resistance and agrees to lead an assault on Camp 351. So with a bunch of “amateurs, losers and psychos” he must assault a guarded camp and shove the government’s germ warfare project down their throats.
What strikes me the most about this book is how not dated it seems even though its thirty years old. There are endless wars in the Middle East. Everyone uses credit cards because cash is discouraged so the government has more control over the people. The whole government is not really an Orwellian one but a half-assed authoritarian one. Described as a car that just slowly falls apart over time. Something that comes about over time because of neglect and apathy. One where the real power is faceless bureaucrats that operate behind the scenes. In one scene one of these bureaucrats shows a political prisoner one of his books. He states that they aren’t illegal to own although not on the approved list for schools or libraries. That with over half the population functionally illiterate and only one in ten even being able to understand what the book is about. So they don’t even care if they exist.
Hovik the hero is an anti-hero in the vein of Snake Plissken. A tough old guy who got kicked out of the Marines and spend most of his life in petty criminal ventures. The resistance is as much an enemy as the government. They knew about the camp but want it intact for propaganda purposes. They seem more interested in their own power and conducting purges. The author clearly has a distrust of those on the left and right as being the same power hungry individuals. So Hovik and this group find out that the camp was developing a virus to cleanse the world of undesirables. Something that they inadvertently release causing a global pandemic.
The author has a dedication at the beginning that acknowledges all those in DC and elsewhere that are working tirelessly to make books like this believable. Sadly that seems more true then thirty years ago.