PROJECT PROMETHEUS by Matthew X. Gomez - a review
Tom Costigan is a washed-out mercenary, stuck cleaning dishes for a hole-in-the-wall bar despite his chrome arm and the computer in his head. While having a smoke break in the alley out back, he's approached by a former comrade. His former commander is putting the old team back together for a big corporate heist.
Tom isn't big on asking questions, and the money's attractive enough to make him jump for it. But when the hand-off to the buyers goes south and the bullets start to fly, Tom finds himself with a sealed container and the payout.
But the payout is encrypted, and he doesn't know what's in the container.
Even with the help of his hacker sister, will Tom be able to stay ahead of his former comrades, the buyers, and the people they stole from and why is everyone willing to kill for what looks like a bunch of silver gloop?
Tom stepped out into the alley behind Danzig's, a cold misty rain dripping down from on high, city lights gleaming off the titanium and chrome of his left arm. He ducked under an overhang, filched a half-crumpled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket.
He held up his fake thumb, a blue propane flame cutting up into the night and then extinguished. He took a long, satisfied drag. Someone cleared their throat.
Tom leaned back and closed his eyes, took another long drag, filling his lungs with smoke.
"You're a hard man to track down." A figure stepped out from the shadows, long black trench coat hanging down over a spare frame. Blue-black hair tied back from a square face. The light caught the silver implants around his eyes. "A man didn't know better, I'd say you didn't want to be found."
Have to say, neither Sci-fi or heist novels are really my sort of thing. So a Sci-fi heist novel? What was I thinking?
After finishing Project Prometheus, what I’m thinking is how wrong I was . . .
Project Prometheus is fantastic.
So, let’s jump in . . .
Erstwhile mercenary, Tom Costigan, is offered one last job by Sam - his ex-commander in the mercenary unit Tom was a part of. The job is a no questions asked heist.
He could refuse.
He could go back to washing the dishes.
If he wants.
But who wants to do that?
Thing is, the last mission with Sam and his old buddies ended up with Tom having one less arm than he started with. But with his life going nowhere, Tom, with some trepidation, agrees to take part in the Heist.
The object of the heist is some sort of canister containing some sort of something. Sam’s keeping the whole thing very close to his chest. But Tom will get his cut. Then he can walk away. Suspicious by nature, Tom isn't happy with this, but what once he's in, he's in. There ain't no turning back now.
Although this is very much a getting the band back together kind of set-up, Tom notices pretty quickly that time, distance and friendship do not necessarily breed trust.
Two Matrix-like figures from a tech company are also tracking Tom’s every move. They make him an offer, but by this time Tom doesn’t trust anyone - other than his hacker sister, Sunny.
In a spectacularly written scene, the heist goes, let's say, a little awry, and Tom finds himself with the goods and the whole world after him. All because of this silver gloop inside this canister. Tom has more questions than answers, but has no time for either. Running is the only thing that matters. Sunny acts as the perfect foil for Tom’s anxieties and her computer knowhow keeps him one step ahead of all those seeking to chase him down.
The group of mercenaries are brilliantly drawn by Gomez - as are all the characters in the novel. Tom - and the reader - are with Tom hiding in ruined buildings, scampering down dark alleys, taking the blows and feeling his pain. And constantly trying to get a handle on the motivation of everyone involved.
The mood throughout is as noir as noir can be, yet flashes of colour and humour throw enough light to prevent it from being at all mawkish. The pace is relentless. The character list is narrow but sharply drawn - each one playing an integral role within the story. And the dialogue sharp, witty and caustic.
Make no mistake, Gomez is a top writer.
The novel is lean and muscular and whips along at a fearful pace.
What I also loved about this novel was the allusion to a wider storyline. The mission in which Tom lost his arm is often spoken of by Tom and the other members of the unit, Gomez feeding just enough to the reader whilst resisting the temptation to descend into weighty backstory. Tom’s lost years since this ill-fated mission and the beginning of the novel are not reiterated in too much detail either. A lesser, more insecure, writer might have unbalanced the novel by feeling the need to elaborate on these two aspects of Tom’s history, but not Gomez, though I’d love to see Gomez take on these two aspects in more length elsewhere.
But Project Prometheus is a novel about the sharp-edged now. And it is brilliant. It is the story of how Tom ended up with a mysterious canister from a mysterious tech company who will do anything to get it back. And they're not the only ones. What the silver gloop is within the cannister, well, we find that out towards the end of the novel.
And, blimey, it’s worth waiting for.
With nods to The Terminator, The Matrix and Blade Runner, Project Prometheus is a hugely enjoyable cyber noir heist novel.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Project Prometheus is available from Fahrenheit Press in the following formats:
Limited Edition Hardback