Rating: 3 out of 5
F. Paul Wilson’s The Void Protocol (The ICE Sequence (3)) picks up with Laura and Rick once again on the outs after his revelation at the end of the previous book. This time, the new bizarre topic is people-with-powers. Sure, they’re pretty minor powers. But one can levitate (less than two feet), one can make things (permanently) disappear from his hand (if he can close his hand over it), two are minor telekinetics who can move things on the order of a pool ball, one can sense other people with gifts, one can go invisible, and one can teleport (although without any clothes, jewelry, and–get this–makeup that she might be wearing). There’s also one who doesn’t seem to have any gift at all, even though Marie (the one who can sense others with gifts) insists she has one. In parallel we get glimpses into an old government black program (starting in 1984) created to study a strange material that doesn’t behave like anything natural (it pours, yet registers as having no weight, for example). The scientist who gets the furthest with it dubs it “melis,” as an anagram for “slime.”
I’m surprised that it took as long as it did to determine what Iggy’s power was. It seemed obvious to this reader from the first time we saw it work, and while I can see why it would take some repetition for other characters to get the idea, the lack of clue was carried too far. We also have yet another secret society that permanently marks its people (branding this time instead of tattoos, which would set off even more alarms if anyone notices).
Laura still tends to annoy me a bit. She’s peeved at Rick for being standoffish when they’re brought together again, but she’s the one who ghosted him. She runs hot and cold on him so often it’s a wonder he doesn’t have whiplash. I’m also annoyed that every time we’re introduced or reintroduced to Ruth (the girl who teleports), we’re reminded explicitly that she’s chubby, like that’s her defining characteristic.
At one point one of the folks with powers tries to kill Rick just for angering him, and Rick… doesn’t tell anyone? Doesn’t think to point out to Stahlman that the person is dangerous? Continues to let him hang out around all the good guys? There’s another girl who “reads” objects and people by touching them, and she’s brought in just long enough to give them a clue and then is never seen again. When trying to see if Ruth can take an item with her if, say, it’s under her skin, no one ever thinks to ask her whether, say, she’s had any dental fillings, and if so, whether they stayed with her. Also, there’s a touch of the “Bury Your Gays” trope in here.
There are story choices I didn’t entirely like in the previous two books–things like the general depiction of Laura, the secret societies that always tag their people in obvious ways, etc. In this volume, however, there are things that seem like actual plot holes or inconsistencies, or characters being suddenly dumb. This volume does still have great pacing and fun action–mobsters, kidnappings, human experimentation, strange anomalies, etc. It could be better, but it’s still fun.
Content note for animal harm and slurs.