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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Asset, 10 Mar 2001
By 
Frederick Marsh (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Assets (Paperback)
Ted Allbeury's latest spy novel follows the course of an illegal operation (codenamed MK Ultra) carried out by the CIA. In doing so it addresses the fundamental - and fundamentally unanswerable - question of whether democracy should be defended and preserved by persons operating outwith the reach of the law. As Allbeury - or at least one of his characters - says: 'If tolerance is a necessity of democracy, how much tolerance? Where do we draw the line? If democracy is giving power to the majority, what do we do when the majority can't tolerate the minority?'
The central protagonist is Joe Maguire. The novel episodically depicts his life from his involvement in the Korean War to the present day via his election to the Senate and his rôle as intermediary between the CIA and the Pentagon with specific responsibility for MK Ultra. MK Ultra concerns mind-control by drugs and hypnosis, and the generally unwitting uses to which those so controlled are put (such as assassination). Along the way, various other characters' stories are told and the full, chilling, tentacled reach of the MK Ultra organisation made apparent: the doctors', the agents', the senior ranks', and above all the innocent victims' who suffer at the hands of the organisation, are conveyed in bold, brief strokes. The disparate strands of the novel are brought together in a satisfyingly sinister conclusion, and if (managing to ignore the power that even stage hypnotists such as Paul McKenna wield) one begins to imagine that the whole thing is a little far-fetched one only has to read the final brief unsettling postscript to realise that this is a novel based on a terrifying reality.
This is a mature espionage novel and one that exhibits to the full Allbeury's range as a storyteller. His description is always terse and apt but it his flair for accurate and character-revealing dialogue which drives the story forward. He steps back and dispassionately observes his characters from afar ensuring that a denouement (which in other hands could have been mawkish) is coldly rational and free from any trace of sentimentality.
The story - as ever, with Allbeury - is character-driven. There is no beginning to an Allbeury novel, no middle, and no end: we as readers are dropped into an already unfolding scenario, we observe it for a while, then we fade away at the end - left to wonder at fleeting isolated moments what has happened to the characters we became acquainted with for a brief time between the pages of the book. And as there is no end to the story, there can be no answer to the question Allbeury poses: should we defend democracy by illegal means? Indeed, do we really want to know what goes on behind closed doors in its name?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Definite Asset, 7 Jan 2001
By 
Frederick Marsh (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Assets (Hardcover)
Ted Allbeury's latest spy novel follows the course of an illegal operation (codenamed MK Ultra) carried out by the CIA. In doing so it addresses the fundamental - and fundamentally unanswerable - question of whether democracy should be defended and preserved by persons operating outwith the reach of the law. As Allbeury - or at least one of his characters - says: 'If tolerance is a necessity of democracy, how much tolerance? Where do we draw the line? If democracy is giving power to the majority, what do we do when the majority can't tolerate the minority?'
The central protagonist is Joe Maguire. The novel episodically depicts his life from his involvement in the Korean War to the present day via his election to the Senate and his rôle as intermediary between the CIA and the Pentagon with specific responsibility for MK Ultra. MK Ultra concerns mind-control by drugs and hypnosis, and the generally unwitting uses to which those so controlled are put (such as assassination). Along the way, various other characters' stories are told and the full, chilling, tentacled reach of the MK Ultra organisation made apparent: the doctors', the agents', the senior ranks', and above all the innocent victims' who suffer at the hands of the organisation, are conveyed in bold, brief strokes. The disparate strands of the novel are brought together in a satisfyingly sinister conclusion, and if (managing to ignore the power that even stage hypnotists such as Paul McKenna wield) one begins to imagine that the whole thing is a little far-fetched one only has to read the final brief unsettling postscript to realise that this is a novel based on a terrifying reality.
This is a mature espionage novel and one that exhibits to the full Allbeury's range as a storyteller. His description is always terse and apt but it his flair for accurate and character-revealing dialogue which drives the story forward. He steps back and dispassionately observes his characters from afar ensuring that a denouement (which in other hands could have been mawkish) is coldly rational and free from any trace of sentimentality.
The story - as ever, with Allbeury - is character-driven. There is no beginning to an Allbeury novel, no middle, and no end: we as readers are dropped into an already unfolding scenario, we observe it for a while, then we fade away at the end - left to wonder at fleeting isolated moments what has happened to the characters we became acquainted with for a brief time between the pages of the book. And as there is no end to the story, there can be no answer to the question Allbeury poses: should we defend democracy by illegal means? Indeed, do we really want to know what goes on behind closed doors in its name?
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The Assets by Ted Allbeury
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