Review: The Prisoner

Let me adjust my tin foil hat. I think I need it after mainlining Daniel Suarez's Daemon and Freedom, followed by Cory Doctorow's Little Brother and finally finishing with Carlos Cortes's The Prisoner.

I’m reviewing The Prisoner by Carlos Cortes. Published by Spectra in October 2009. Amazon Canada has it listed for $9.89.

If there are movies influenced by books then of course, there are books influenced by movies. And The Prisoner certainly has its movie influences. The opening scenes of The Prisoner inevitably recall The Matrix and the cover of the paperback offers a shout out to V for Vendetta featuring a woman with a shaved head. Both of these movies feature a small group of rebels facing off against overwhelming odds, and so does The Prisoner. In this case, a group of rebels are breaking out a "secret” prisoner held in a maximum security prison. The prisoner will be able to testify on the abuses of power by highly placed government officials.

As a good thriller does, the book proceeds at a brisk pace, only slightly slowed when one of the characters begins to expound on how easily personal freedom was lost in this near future America. I might not have noticed this, except my previous reading with Suarez and Doctorow had already covered this topic pretty extensively.

I don’t think that its’ a spoiler to say that after The Matrix style prison breakout a great deal of the book’s action takes place in the sewers of Washington DC and this was written for the maximum gross out factor. I didn’t really realize this until I noticed that I was eating a snack during a particularly grotesque scene. Ha! Screaming people covered in stinky poo don't scare me though. I've had a kid with rotavirus.

Mr. Cortes does a couple of thing a little differently; his lead villain is a woman, and the inevitable implacable mercenary henchman is actually has sympathy for the rebels he is tracking down. I’d say he was a sympathetic character, since I didn’t really total up how psychotic he was until the end of the book.

I’m always amused by the difficulties we have in creating female villains in books and in movies. They can’t be a little bad, they have to be really bad in order to “deserve” the fate meted out to them. So, how do we know that our villainess is bad in The Prisoner?
1. She’s sexually aggressive.
2. She’s perverted – a lesbian*. By the way, the failure of her lesbian relationship is her excuse for her actions.
3. She’s untrustworthy.
4. She has power, and abuses it.

I think you get the picture, she doesn’t possess a single feminine virtue. Anyhow, I don’t want to get too distracted here although the topic of what makes a female villain always reveals a great deal about societies prejudices and expectations for women.

I enjoyed The Prisoner and polished it off in a single night. However, you might want to ration your thriller reading or else you may find a tin foil hat is your new fashion accessory.

So, please check out The Prisoner recommended to you by WebGenii.

The Prisoner by Carlos Cortes
# Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
# Publisher: Spectra; Original edition (October 27, 2009)
# ISBN-10: 0553591630
# ISBN-13: 978-0553591637

* Just to clarify here - I don't think that being a lesbian is perverted. However, her orientation is used to make her more "other", so we can more easily accept her badness and her fate.

About WebGenii

WebGenii is a SF book nerd and all-round geek.

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