There’s a familiarity and old-school approach to Clive Fleury’s novel Kill Code. It should come as no surprise since Fleury wrote and directed a number of feature films in the ’90s, including Big City Blues starring Burt Reynolds and Giancarlo Esposito.
Set in the distant future of 2031, the world has been hit by climate change and an ever-changing landscape. Jobs are scarce, resources scarcer, and humans seek ways of surviving in this world. Hopefully, this isn’t an example of what to expect after the COVID-19 pandemic…
The story is told through the eyes of ex-cop Hogan Duran who has been down on his luck for too long. He receives the opportunity to join the National Security Council (NSC)—an organisation that protects the rich and powerful but also rewards its officers with a comfortable and rewarding lifestyle.
Duran’s journey isn’t simple, though, as he needs to complete rigorous tests while battling other candidates to receive entry into this prestigious circle. Then, there’s a juicy twist before the third act that makes you question everything you read before it.
At 149 pages, Kill Code is a rapid read. It feels more like a movie than a novel, as the beats hop from one to another without giving you a moment to breathe. There’s certainly a benefit in a shorter read as you’re pulled straight into the in-your-face action and a fast-moving story.
At the same time, the book’s short length robs some of the other characters from any sort of development. Duran’s supporting cast feel like tropes from popular films as they lack any real depth or humanity except acting as foils for the protagonist. Even Duran, to an extent, is driven by two motivations: loyalty to his friend Max and a better life. Besides that, no one knows what makes him tick.
What Kill Code lacks in character development, it more than makes up for in its twisty dystopian-action story that draws elements from Judge Dredd and Bloodshot. You get sucked into this world, the social injustices, and want to know more about it, including what’s lurking behind every door.
That being said, the “code” exposition towards the end of the novel could’ve been better. Without spoiling it for those who haven’t read the novel yet, it is far too convenient and sounds more like something out of Spaceballs than a military operation like the NSC. It’s a pivotal plot point that merits a well-thought-out execution, not what it is.
While the book draws comparisons to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, it has more in common with dystopian comic books like Judge Dredd (without the satire). Overall, Kill Code is a fast and entertaining first entry in the series. The way this book ends off leaves you intrigued of what’s to come for Duran.