Contract by Simon Spurrier
By a confluence of events, I discovered that Si Spurrier was writing Gutsville and a new Silver Surfer mini series called In Thy Name, and then saw this book – about a hitman whose hits come back from the dead, hinting at a divine conflict, a heavenly war – which, you have to admit, sounds pretty damn cool. Excerpts on a promo site [EDIT: promo site no longer exists] about the protagonist, Michael Point, suggest an interesting prose style: I’m sold.
I would like to tell you now that the book is NOT about a heavenly war. At all. So, if you thought it might be worth reading based on the synopsis, like I did, you should not read the book. The story is not quite what it seems. Point is a hitman; he’s been doing it for a few years when we meet him, and he has a pragmatic approach: It’s All About The Money. No morals and a careful attitude, combined with lots of internet research, and away he goes. The book is told in first person, so Michael can tell you everything you need to know about him and what he does.
Herein lies a large measure of the appeal of the book. Spurrier has a strong voice, detailing the extremes of his protagonist. The only trouble is the repetitive emphasis of a man with a limited imagination (the protagonist, not the author): ‘The thing is:’, ‘This place’, ‘Listen’, ‘Bear with me’, ‘The point is’, What I’m thinking is’ punctuate the prose with oppressive regularity, deliberately to highlight the central character’s mindset, but it gets really tiring actually reading this style.
Spurrier captures the voice and thoughts of a man who thinks he is better than he is and the way he goes about life – the details, the anal quality, the sadness, the need to talk to someone – but it grinds you down.
The story weaves between him being interviewed after the fact and relating to us exactly what he is telling the interviewers. Oddly, this is interspersed with diary entries of a woman who is Michael’s closest human contact, which throws things off a bit. Michael kills a man (using a gun with bullets laced with heroin) but he comes back and has to kill them again. This keeps happening. He is hired by someone to do ‘special’ jobs, but who seems to know a lot about him. The final job is the difficult job, with lots of people to kill, from which he doesn’t expect to escape. During this, the woman interacts with him a lot, influencing his brain and the way he does his job, especially as he starts to think that religion is involved, what with all these people coming back to life after he kills them.
But it is nothing to do with heaven or hell, and the only thing that didn’t make me throw the book away at the end in disgust was the reveal behind the interview room scenes. Otherwise, I felt slightly cheated by the outcome. My fault for wanting what they said on the tin, I guess. At least some of the journey was interesting.