Steve Perry,
The Machiavelli Interface
(Ace, 1986; reprinted 2003)

In the beginning, there was "The Book." The book was the first volume in a trilogy outlining the life, times and travails of Emile Khadaji. Unfortunately, The Machiavelli Interface is the third and last book in this series, and that made for a difficult read. In reading this book, I spent a longer time than is normal to complete a book of its caliber. Thus, I had to infer several things, such as the villain in this book, Marcus Jefferson Wall, was a pedophile in fact and in deed, only to find that he just liked the illusion of a delicate flower of a girl to work his wiles on. In the future time in which this book takes place, one can easily change one's appearance, and create illusions that are real enough to stimulate the jaded palate of a sexual predator. If one requires a more literal reference point for this, one should view the movie, The Minority Report, because it contains similar futuristic sequences, and is also a bit of a puzzle.

The primary villain in this series is an albino misanthrope named Marcus Jefferson Wall. The author's choice of a name for his villain is an interesting one in that Marcus Aurelius was a famous Roman senator/philosopher/writer, and Thomas Jefferson was of course, a president of the U.S., a violinist, inventor, writer of the Declaration of Independence, a diplomat and also a very complicated man. The use of the name Wall makes one suppose that the author was using these names to demonstrate that even our heroes can be flawed, but he met with some resistance when he gave the name Wall to a man with no redeeming qualities. Wall is part of the Confederation, which controls much of the world that is inhabited by Khadaji and his associates. Perry employs a form of martial art and Buddhist philosophy in this story, which allows the hero and his fellow "matadors" to first help Khadaji escape a prison overseen by Wall and then to allow all of the matadors to use their particular skills to eventually successfully destroy the backbone of the Confederation and free the world from the tyranny of Wall.

As with all villains, Wall ruthlessly punishes his enemies, or those who have betrayed him. The girl who is given to him at the beginning of the book, Nichole, is allegedly 12 years old, and Wall enjoys indoctrinating children into his own particular form of sexuality. When I first read that, I almost didn't finish the book because I was disgusted to read of Wall's pederasty. As I read more of the book, however, I found that Nichole was only surgically enhanced to look 12, and was actually in her 30s. By "recreating" Nichole, her father tries to curry favor, and perhaps be given a "promotion" by giving his daughter to Wall, particularly since he knows of Wall's appetites. When Wall finds out that Nichole is only a child in appearance, he wreaks a particularly cruel revenge on her, and this becomes his downfall.

If anyone has read Shibumi by Trevanian, then one is aware of the mystique and classical elegance of martial arts and philosophy that is often a dominating force in the hero-villain battle. Although this book is not exclusively about Khadaji versus Wall, the implication is never far below the surface. Khadaji becomes a major force in vignettes throughout, and his staff, Dirisha, Mayli, Sleel, Bork and others, while not described in great detail, are nevertheless painted as great warriors. There are also a number of futuristic weapons, as well as a lesbian pair, which is a refreshing addition to a book of this caliber, implying that in our future, such pairings will not be cause for comment.

This book is interesting, but cannot stand by itself for a quick read. The best way to truly enjoy it is by reading the other two volumes, The Man Who Never Missed and Matadora, to give one context for this final volume in the trilogy. Perhaps this was a design of the author's, perhaps he really did want to stretch his story out over three volumes, but at any rate, this book is a tough read without a history upon which to base its content.

- Rambles
written by Ann Flynt
published 10 May 2003

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