Cephalopod Coffeehouse May 2015–I AM THE TRAITOR

Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

As part of the Coffeehouse I’m sharing the best book I read this month, and it was the concluding book in Allen Zadoff’s Unknown Assassin series, I AM THE TRAITOR. Last summer I read both I AM THE WEAPON (originally published as BOY NOBODY) and I AM THE MISSION, and found the fast-paced stories about a 16 y/o government assassin to be pretty kickass. I was offered an advanced reviewer copy of this book, and I devoured it.

I Am the Traitor (The Unknown Assassin, #3)About the Book:
In the third and final installment in the Unknown Assassin trilogy, Boy Nobody is on the run from The Program and uncovers a secret about his past that forces him to decide where his loyalties lie.

The Program has sent Boy Nobody on countless missions, instructed to kill whichever target he was given. But now, after going rogue, he is on his own mission to rescue his friend Howard who was captured by The Program. Boy Nobody manages to free Howard as well as Tanya, a mysterious girl who was being held with him. Howard and Tanya help Boy Nobody collect information about his father, eventually revealing a dangerous secret that teaches Boy Nobody a valuable lesson — he can’t trust anyone.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, and books should be read in order.

This book picks up where I AM THE MISSION left off, with Zach still trying to determine if his father is dead, and to hunt down and recover his friend, Howard. Howard became friends with Zach in book one of the series, and helped him run his op in book two–all without the knowledge or consent of The Program, the government agency that procures, trains and manages this group of elite teen assassins to which Zach has belonged for five years. Ever since his father was killed.

Over the course of the books, Zach’s confidence in The Program–and his handlers Mother and Father–has slipped. Howard was Zach’s safety net, one outsider who could attest to his existence in the event that The Program tried to scrub him, but The Program learned about Howard and has taken him into custody. Zach knows they will kill him–and he’s determined to ensure that won’t happen.

Naturally, Mike–Zach’s field commander, is up on the score. Not only does Mike know where Howard is, he has a new mission for Zach: eliminate Howard. A good soldier would follow orders, and Zach knows this mission is a test–he fails it spectacularly, not only rescuing Howard but also a girl who is imprisoned with him, Tanya.

As with everything in Zach’s world, nothing is what it seems. Two things remain true, however: Zach wants to find his father, and Howard is sure he is still alive. Together, Tanya, Howard and Zach search for inroads into The Program’s files to learn the truth behind Zach’s father’s story. They investigate the news story regarding Zach’s parents’ deaths. They hijack a terminal at a high security research lab. Dogging their steps is Mike, who is equal parts ally and hunter.

It is a thrill ride, sure to keep readers turning the pages. I loved both previous books in this series, and Zach is a fascinating sociopath. Somewhere in this morass of murder and mayhem he has grown the conscience The Program believed it had snuffed out. His decisions are no longer guided by a faulty directive, and his quest to save his father and friends renders him inarguably human.

I had expected both of the big twists–with no lack of enjoyment–and gloried in Zach’s triumphs. The big themes, government intrusion, research ethics, mind control, and the growth of the industrial military complex, are all present, but are far overshadowed by Zach establishing trust, redeeming himself, putting others before his own mission. As a conclusion to this series, it is excellent.

Some readers may balk at the teen assassin aspects of this book, and how otherworldly capable The Program’s agents are, but it was akin to The Bourne Identity, for me. The pace of the book is extraordinarily fast, with not a spare word to be found. I have a hard time imagining there will be a reader over age 12 who takes more than a day to finish this book.

Interested? You can’t get I AM THE TRAITOR just yet, but it can be preordered in advance of it’s 6/9 release at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. Or try your local library mid-June. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Hope you have a chance to hop around to my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers and find a book to intrigue you! Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!


When Terror Comes Home: I AM THE MISSION–A Review

Hi there! Couple of weeks ago I crushed hard for a teenaged assassin who had five days to kill the mayor of New York. Well, Zach’s back in Allen Zadoff’s sequel–I AM THE MISSION–and this time he’s meant to kill the head of a ultra-conservative running a military training camp for teens. Yikes!

I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin, #2)About the book:

He was the perfect assassin. No name. No past. No remorse. Perfect, that is, until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders. Now The Program is worried that their valuable soldier has become a liability.

And so Boy Nobody is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to prove his loyalty.

His objective: Take out Eugene Moore, the owner of an extremist military training camp for teenagers. It sounds like a simple task, but a previous operative couldn’t do it. He lost the mission and is presumed dead. Now Boy Nobody is confident he can finish the job. Quickly.

But when things go awry, Boy Nobody finds himself lost in a mission where nothing is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, nor the truth.

The riveting second book in Allen Zadoff’s Boy Nobody series delivers heart-pounding action and a shocking new twist that makes Boy Nobody question everything he has believed.

My Review:
Sometimes sequels disappoint. Not this time.

Zach is emotionally scrambled after his last mission. Being an isolated human isn’t as fulfilling as it had been, and his doubt draws him to get close to others–to their detriment. His brief “lose himself in humanity” experiment nearly backfires when Father–his male contact and advisor with The Program–tracks him to a boys camp in the northeast. Tense doesn’t begin to describe the confrontation.

Zach’s loyalty to The Program is being tested. If he accepts the mission, he’ll have one chance to neutralize the threat–a single meeting with Eugene Moore at a recruitment event for Moore’s Camp Liberty. Under no circumstances is Zach supposed to enter Camp Liberty–a place where all communication is monitored and where a previous Program operative disappeared four months prior.

Posing as disaffected teen “Daniel”, our determined assassin watches as his one chance to prove himself to The Program slips away before he can get within striking distance. Then, he’s given the opportunity to spend the night at the camp and check it out for himself. Against his mission directive, Daniel does.

Having made it past the first levels of security, Daniel scopes chances to hit his target–they aren’t great, but Daniel has infiltrated the inner sanctum by befriending Moore’s teen children: Lee and Miranda. Moore’s bodyguard, Francisco, isn’t letting Daniel close, however.

Drawn in, Daniel goes on a couple of practice missions for Liberty–and he sees how very dangerous the man, and his camp of paramilitary teens, can be up-close and very personal. Trouble is, Daniel can’t reach his “parents”. Every chance he tries to make contact with The Program is a failure. Cut loose, Daniel reaches out to the one and only real friend he’s made in four years, a teen hacker named Howard.

This pair makes sense of the chaos the mission has become. Especially when hitting the target only escalates the danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed Zach/Daniel and his handling of the mission. He was constantly compromised, and didn’t waver for a second. His loyalties were tested completely–Francisco nearly killed him, not to mention all the snipers and “clean up” teams dispatched, and yet Zach/Daniel kept his cover and his focus. Sure, he had to call in Howard, but that (for me) signaled a level of maturity in his development. The cracks exist, however. Zach isn’t the killing machine The Program intended. Well, perhaps he is, but he’s not a mindless killing machine who simply follows orders.

Sure, he’s got skills, but he’s not prepared when he meets another operative in the field. Particularly, when Zach learns Moore knew he was an operative and accepted him into Camp Liberty in order to convert him to their cause. We see Zach’s thought processes clearly: he’ll soon be too old to be a teen assassin, and then what? What will The Program do with him? Disposal? Because it seems likely considering how efficiently they have wiped his access and left him to fend for himself. Camp Liberty holds Zach’s skills in high regard–he’d have a place of honor, and the companionship he now desires. Lee could be a real friend, and Miranda’s interested in more than that….

And, what is Mike doing? The guy kills Zach’s family and recruits him into The Program, but it seems Mike works off the grid just as much as on. He was The Program’s first operative, yet, Mike’s presence is that of an ally in a way Zach hadn’t expected and isn’t sure he can trust. Especially when Howard’s life is on the line.

Oh, and domestic terrorism, Boston bombings, and Taser-torture. So, yeah–super intense. Bit of a YA Bourne series, which is a bit of alright, in my book.

Interested? You can find I AM THE MISSION on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and probably six dozen other outlets. Even your library. I read an advance review copy via NetGalley. This is my honest review.

Allen ZadoffAbout the Author:

Allen Zadoff is the author of the new thriller series, The Unknown Assassin which earned starred reviews and has been optioned for a feature film by Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment. His YA novel, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and was a YALSA selection for Most Popular Paperbacks of 2012. His second novel was My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies, the story of a techie hiding from life after a family tragedy. His third novel Since You Left Me is set in Los Angeles and tells the story of a religious school student who doesn’t believe. He also wrote the memoir for adults, Hungry:Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin.

Allen is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. Visit him on his website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂