As a highly trained mercenary with psychic powers, John Smith is a man whose skills are highly prized by those who can pay for them. Hired by a tech industrialist to prove a rival’s theft, he is paired with glamorous assistant Kelsey and quickly infiltrates his target. Of course, the job goes horribly wrong, forcing John and Kelsey to go on the run, while a madman’s personal army hounds them every step of the way.
Beginning as a low-stakes tale of corporate espionage, before long Kill File lurches directly into action thriller territory with sequences of urban survival thrown in for good measure, while interspersed along the way are numerous chapters detailing John’s history where he was trained as a psychic weapon for the CIA. Such is the power of his mental abilities he can never completely shut out the noise caused by the thoughts of those around him, and his supreme badassery is tempered by an apparent dependence of alcohol and pills to partially deaden his senses so he can remain functional.
While John effectively possesses an assortment of mental superpowers that wouldn’t be out of place in a comic book, his abilities operate with rules and imitations, preventing him from becoming too unstoppable. For example, for him to access information a person knows they must first be thinking of it, and his capacity to imprint enemies with debilitating memories comes with the downside of suffering a portion of the experience himself. Not just an audience surrogate or the hot chick along for the ride, Kelsey proves her worth on numerous occasions with her own talents at manipulating people, which, while far more everyday than John’s psychic powers, are at times more effective.
As a protagonist, John is fascinating to watch develop as the book progresses. His mental abilities and physical training combine to make him a formidable force, but he always operates with a degree of tact, spending time and resources undermining an opponent’s position before confronting them. In this regard he’s as much John Constantine as he is Jason Bourne, figuring out each opponent’s specific weaknesses and the most efficient way to defeat them, which often involves subtlety and misdirection instead of just wading into the fray with his fists swinging. His tactics also highlight a number of ways in which the high-tech security of our modern age can be circumvented by frighteningly low-fi and simplistic means.
A compelling introduction to a morally ambiguous hero, Kill File is a seamless blend of subgenres that moves fast, hits hard and leaves you wanting more.
KILL FILE / AUTHOR: CHRISTOPHER FARNSWORTH / PUBLISHER: ZAFFRE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW