a review by Steve Cameron
Satori is an authorised prequel to the famous Shibumi novel (1979). Throughout his life the author, Trevanian, was asked to write further adventures in the series, and yet always declined. So I must admit to being sceptical at the motives behind the writing of this novel, commissioned by his family after his death. (Blade Runner sequels by K.W. Jeter, anyone?) So I must admit to being somewhat surprised to discover that this is a ripping read. The action scenes are beautifully detailed, the intrigue is well plotted and defined, and the protagonist is well structured and realistic.
Nicholai Hel is not your typical Westerner. The son of a Russian Countess, born in Shanghai and raised in Japan, he is much more at home in the East than the West. Trained in super-secret martial arts, and imprisoned by the Americans for a crime he had no choice but to commit, he is released on the condition he becomes a super-secret agent and assassinates a Russian Commissioner in China. This he does, realising it’s probably a suicide mission. But when the politics and intrigue start between a number of nations, and he starts to realise someone is actively trying to kill him, he has to use all his skill and wits merely to survive.
Winslow obviously spent a great deal of time researching 1950s life in China, France and Vietnam, as the politics, people and situations have an authentic feel to them. The novel is divided into a large number of chapters, some merely a page long, as the action shifts from scene to scene, slowly building the suspense and littered with clues regarding characters, their actions and motives. Satori is a first class story. Highly recommended for those that like their spies and adventure.
Originally published in Dark Matter issue 5, September 2011. This post has been pre-dated to reflect the original publication date.