Van Name's novel begins with its strongest suit--an ironic situation for its mercenary hero (lying in the bottom of a pit trap in the jungle), and with some truly clever and funny pieces. The novel's protagonist has been "enhanced" in a number of ways, and one of them is that he can speak to appliances: washing machines, it turns out, have some pretty juicy gossip about their owners' sex lives. When I read the line about "the price we've paid for putting intelligence everywhere is a huge population of frequently disgruntled but fortunately behaviorally limited machines," followed by a brief list of which appliances are the most and least interesting to talk to, I thought that this book might have some sustained appeal.
Unfortunately, this kind of ironic humor fades over the course of the novel into a pretty standard military science fiction: details about weapons capabilities, a lot of tough-guy posturing, and combat sequences. Those aren't bad things in and of themselves, of course, but I have to disagree with other reviewers--this novel didn't do it for me.
(1) It's an extremely linear narrative (one thing leads to another, which leads to another, which leads...), and the two flashbacks are clumsily and forcibly inserted.
(2) Like a lot of military sci-fi, this novel presents a "killer with a conscience," which is one way of addressing the ethical issues raised by the genre, which after all, promises the reader thrills based on scenes of killing. Unfortunately, the book heavy handedly and repeatedly steers the reader into situations that seem to demand sympathy with the soldier's desire for violence and violent retribution--in short, it tries to have its ethical cake and eat it, too.
(3) Van Name resorts again and again to seemingly impossible challenges for his protagonist--challenges which are overcome again and again by the protagonist's nearly unlimited secret super-power. In the same irritating vein, the novel offers a series of scenarios that range from the extraordinarily implausible (the discovery of an enormous and hugely powerful machine ally lying for no reason in the town square) to challenges that turn out to be irrelevant (a dozen pages are spent on the bio-engineering of an extraordinary sea animal and an assault on a compound which turns out to be completely pointless--I'm reminded of the Q sequences in a Bond film, where a gadget is displayed at length only to never appear again in the rest of the movie).
(4) Finally, a series of painful contradictions mar the novel, none more grating than than pp. 161-62, where Lim first agrees to Moore's plan only on the condition that Moore be the front man, and that she is anonymous and no one knows she is involved--and then literally only half a page later, reminds him that she accepted only on the condition that everyone knows the she and her company "organized the whole affair" and that Moore only appears as "one more member of [her] team." I have a high tolerance for this sort of thing, but after four or five of these gaffes, I wondered what had happened to the editing.