Book review: Acts of Vanishing by Fredrik T Olsson

Monday, September 11, 2017 Permalink

This was not the book I was expecting it to be. The backcover blurb talks about a girl (who we know will soon die) attempting to get a message to her father.

I’d just finished a book about a missing girl and was envisaging a serial killer or psychopath kidnapping kids. Instead the daughter in question is 20yrs old and this book is more of a thriller featuring government agencies, cryptologists and political dealings. So… not what I was expecting, but not necessarily an unwelcome read.

Book review: Acts of Vanishing by Fredrik T OlssonActs of Vanishing
by Fredrik T. Olsson
on August 29th 2017
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9780751553345
Pages: 384

It was ten past four on the afternoon of the third of December. Everything was darkness and ink, and the snow falling turned to water.

Through it ran Sara Sandberg, the girl who was about to die, and somewhere in the cold, lead-grey hell that was Stockholm was a man who called himself her father.

In her rucksack, she had a warning for him.

Now whether he would receive it or not was all down to her.

I’ve mentioned in the past I went through a spy / espionage reading stage in the 1990s and devoured everything I could by John Le Carre, Robert Ludlam, Len Deighton and David Morrell. Indeed I think I still have a dozen or more Morrells and Ludlams on my shelves.

So… I’m not necessarily a stranger to books about government conspiracies, terror threats and the like. For some reason I’ve not been at all interested in books (TV shows or movies) about the Middle East. Perhaps it’s because I’m still back in my childhood days of the ‘Cold War’ when Russia was to be feared and the Middle East and Korea weren’t even really on our radar.

What’s particularly interesting about this book though is that it touches on potential ways in which civilisation will descend into chaos and – possibly – end.

And – though I don’t read science / dystopian fiction I watch a heap of apocalyptic TV shows (The 100, Falling Skies, Continuum, Firefly, Wayward Pines and Revolution). In Revolution in particular it’s not necessarily nuclear war or alien invaders that end the world. It’s ‘us’ we kinda do it to ourselves. And I must admit it’s kinda baffling that we don’t see more attacks by terrorists or just-bad-people on our support services. God forbid I’m not trying to encourage them, but a few keystrokes by talented hackers and we could be without electricity and communication and well… I can only imagine what comes next.

And then of course there’s Elon Musk’s theory, that we’ll fall prey to artificial intelligence a-la The Terminator. Which I guess will also be our own doing. Kinda….

So… missing daughters aside, this book (set in Sweden, a little in Poland and Britain) actually kicks off with an epic blackout which sends Stockholm into darkness. And ensuing chaos. It’s brief, but perhaps a sign of things to come.

The book’s main players are William Sandberg (an encryption expert who worked in some secret service before going off the rails and losing his job) and his ex-wife Christina, a newspaper editor. Added into the mix are UK and Swedish intelligence agents, politicians and their advisers, a conspiracy theorist as well as neurobiologists and computer hackers.

The plot offers a few twists and turns early on. I have to admit I wasn’t HUGELY engaged with our main characters so wasn’t going to be shocked by any evil lurking beneath the surface, but it’s obvious they’re keeping secrets.

I actually found the story pretty addictive. For the most part. It’s a dense read. Very detailed and took me a loooong time to get through it. And elements were a tad confusing. I lost track of who was who on the British side of things. And wasn’t exactly sure who (or what) was responsible for the several deaths that occur in the book. We learn the detail of some, but not all. (Sara’s for example.)

I’m offering a huge spoiler here but I was a big fan of the TV show Person of Interest, and though this doesn’t really go down that road, there are familiar elements and again there’s a sense that we (humankind) need to give some thought to the long-term consequences of our ideas and actions. Cos…

Life occurs where the prerequisites exist. p 299

Acts of Vanishing by Fredrik T Olsson was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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