Every Friday I take a look at a New Pulp release that I feel is deserving of your attention. Sometimes these are new releases, sometimes they’re a few years old. Sometimes they might even challenge your definition of ‘pulp.’ This time around, I’m turning my critical eye towards The Cestus Concern: Weir Codex Book 1 by Mat Nastos.
Before we get too far into the discussion, let’s see how the publisher described the book:
WHO IS MALCOLM WEIR?
Waking up in an operating room, much to the surprise of the attending surgeons, Malcolm Weir frantically fights his way out of a secret government installation, located in downtown Los Angeles. Battling through a mass of armed guards and meta-gene operatives, the cyborg warrior realizes he has no memory of how he got there. The past 11 months are gone. With a hole in his mind, Weir must retrace his steps for the past year, fighting his way through the nearly endless horde of super powered mercenaries and assassins the government sends after him. Travel along with Weir, facing some of the most intense action ever put to paper, along with a body count of ridiculous proportions, as he tracks down the secrets trapped in his head. In the end, Weir must stand alone against a former friend and a squad of the deadliest killers ever created, all to learn the terrifying truth behind Project: Hardwired. Fans of films like “Bourne Identity” or “Smoking Aces,” or the comics of Deadpool and Wolverine, will love the over-the-top science fiction action of “The Cestus Concern” by Mat Nastos.
What surprises me about that description is that it omits any reference to The Six-Million Dollar Man, which is what this reminded me most strongly of. Maybe they decided that comparing it to a television show from the 1970s would make it feel dated? Regardless, this novel feels very contemporary — we have a military officer transformed into a cybernetic killing machine (again, think the Bionic Man, only with a hell of a lot more collateral damage!) and we get lots of references to modern technology and tactics. Our main character, Malcolm Weir, was never supposed to have his own mind — a highly-developed artificial intelligence was supposed to control his actions, making him the perfect soldier: one who could take lots of damage, dish out even more and who would never question his orders. But when something goes wrong, Weir’s personality reasserts itself… and all hell breaks loose.
In that way, this book does definitely give impressions of things like Bourne or Wolverine, in that we have a hero who has been turned into something that he doesn’t understand… and whose memories are now suspect. The quest for identity is a major one in this book but don’t fool yourself into thinking that there’s lots of introspection here — most of that occurs while Weir is acting like a human tank or falling from 30,000 feet. The action starts immediately and never lets up, with a breathless quality that left me feeling spent when I finally reached the end of the story.
Despite that, the characters are vividly described and within paragraphs, you feel like you know who each of them is and how they should react. I definitely admire the author’s ability to craft these kinds of believable characters while never letting his foot off the accelerator.
Is this book going to change the way you look at the world or give you a deeper insight into the nature of humanity? Hell, no! But what it will do is grab you by the neck and give you a major throttling that you won’t soon forget. It’s a big budget action film played out in prose and if you can kick back with your favorite beverage and give it a few hours, you’ll find yourself immersed in a very engrossing new world.
Sign me up for Book 2!