Review: Cloak, by Timothy Zahn

CloakCloak, by Timothy Zahn (Silence in the Library Publishing, 2014)

In a secret room, two men make a choice: Will they kill one man to save a nation? Well, one man plus enough bystanders that nobody knows he was the original target. Turning him into a martyr would only give him more power.

So begins the best thriller I’ve read in a long, long time. A nuclear weapon is stolen in India and transported toward an unknown target, amid as many red herrings as the planners can spread. In the US, a technological breakthrough is also stolen: specially-treated cloth that, when draped over an object, presents the illusion of invisibility.

Readers know these thefts are linked, but the investigating officials don’t—until it may be too late. There’s a lot that readers don’t know, however, like who is private detective Adam Ross and why did he rescue a key person of interest from assassins—and then keep her away from the police?

Cloak has a large cast of characters, especially in the opening chapters to set everything in motion. Because of that, I’d recommend reading a fair-sized chunk to get started. Otherwise you may forget who’s who. After that, well, stop if you can.

Hugo-award-winning author Timothy Zahn is known for his science fiction novels, including best-sellers within the Star Wars universe. I hesitate to call Cloak science fiction, because except for that one piece of technology, it could come straight from tomorrow’s headlines. Perhaps it’s better labelled a cyber-thriller.

My favourite line describes a man as observed by the female police officer who approaches him:

…he greeted the sudden appearance of a uniformed cop with the kind of jolted wariness most people reserved for unexpected snakes in the garden. [Kobo version: page 6 of chapter 34]

Timothy Zahn is a master strategist, both in terms of military and politics. He nails every aspect of the plot, creating characters we can root for even when we’re not sure of their full game plan. All I can say about the ending is that you won’t see it coming. J

Cloak would make a fantastic movie, except that Hollywood would likely ruin it by adding sex and hardcore profanity. The novel contains mild profanity in places, and I could have done without that, but it wasn’t enough to diminish my overall reading experience.

[Review copy from my personal library.]