I read: Hitman – The Enemy Within by William C. Dietz

Less a Hitman book and more a compilation of worrying fantasies vaguely connected by the presence of a character labelled as 47.  It’s like a fan fic, but written by someone who read reviews of the games.

It can be safely be said that the Hitman movies are objectively awful, yet they are both sublime masterpieces in comparison to this book – which distils the worst elements of the early game then displays a complete contempt for the rest at a conceptual level.

The story has a complete absence of tension, both due to pacing issues and the baffling assumption that in a world with competing international assassination agencies – everyone who works for the agencies directly or indirectly must be staggeringly incompetent.  Some of the plot twists could come straight out of an episode of Archer.

Approximately fifty percent of the story is spent on a side mission that focuses on trying to be shocking for the sake of shock.  The book also has a strange tendency to refer to items by their brand name, then later have details wrong.  Plot points are also put forward and forgotten in later chapters – resulting in an unsatisfying ending that resolves little and feels like it was more the result of a word target than planning.

On top of this the book spends more time describing and exploring the history of a single female character’s naked body than it ever does any aspect of the ICA (referred to only as “The Agency”), 47, his equipment or methodology.   The most stressed point seems to be 47 uses a DOVO brand straight razor.

There’s also a creepy fixation of threatening women with what could only described as extreme nipple torture (men just get regular torture regardless of their crimes or the situation).

Overall it’s a story that forgoes exploring anything from the world of 47 to instead favour instead a poor imitation professional criminal story more akin to the adventures of Richard Stark’s Parker than the globe trotting adventures of a genetically engineered super assassin who has a barcode on the back of his bald head.

Spoilers follow

The apex of failure in this book is a section where 47, on a side mission, is required to protect his target from assassination by another group (so that he can interrogate said target).  Said target is an Arab who’s position is unclear beyond that he’s decadent, incompetent and engaged in everything the author thinks will make the read hate him.

The assassins that 47 must thwart are a team of four Columbian bombers… who have been dispatched to Morocco to assassinate a man who is protected by security at a major music festival, the police, his own small army of security,  and a rival assassination agency.

Unlike 47, these guys apparently have no need to hide themselves, smuggle gear or do research into their hit – they instead seem to import their own Colombian retinue of armed guards and sex workers so they can party down while on business.  The last of them, upon realising his brothers are dead – elects to go on a (wildly unsuccessful) suicide bombing run with a petrol tanker, content that is a “macho” response.

Yet somehow these are the most formidable threats to 47 since the others are a female assassin, Marla, who is hamstrung by being unable to command respect, apparent complete lack of experience in her job and a general lack of ability for anything but escape; and a young couple who exist mostly to show us stereotypical tropes with the least possible characterisation and the shoe horn in a “duel” that is best summed up as two men running shooting at each other until one dies.

Marla’s being a woman also requires, it seems, for her to exposed to a long series of sexual indignities that serve no other purpose other than to try to shock and/or arouse the reader… it’s really not clear which, but it’s clear it fails at both as the repetition becomes numbing and the rationale behind it all seems to be “what is the worst thing I can get away with in this book and attribute to an Arab”.

The Agency is, itself, at least as poorly defined as each of the characters – it has 47, an apparently limitless number of support agents, Diana (who’s magic power is to be wherever the plot needs her to be), Mr Nu (who is described only as Eurasian and shares the same power) and a board who’s members are all business people who interests primarily outside of assassination – to the extent it’s baffling why they’d risk being associated with such a group when they’re all already wealthy beyond measure.

The ultimate antagonists of the story are the head of the rival firm, Douay, and the IC… Agency board member that turns traitor for a loan of five hundred million Euros, Thorakis.  Neither of them has any military or espionage credentials, in fact the rival firm member seems only to be in the Getting Rich By Being Evil business.

The staggering amount of money is brought up in the introduction and serves essentially to undermine the significance over every other amount mentioned.  When it’s mentioned the Douay’s mentor has spent two million Euros trying to secure release from a French prison, and when Diana is framed with a six million investment in fake bribes – it’s impossible to read the numbers without hearing a laugh track.

Thorakis is a comically easy target: A soft, pampered shipping magnate who can’t stand to stay in a less than five thousand dollar a night room and who has a fatal peanut allergy. His death is anti-climatic in the same way the Titanic was a disappointment and long overdue since it seems any rival could have long ago disposed of him with an spray bottle.

It’s also particularly anti-climatic since after the Agency specifies that any traitor will have their entire family slaughtered as punishment, Thorakis is given a merciful low profile “accident kill”, further securing the Agency’s record of comical incompetence.

Douay’s fate is not explored, only that it finally occurs to him that being a family man is not compatible with being a player in the literally cut-throat world of competing assassination agencies.

All of these, and many other, narrative failings give the feeling that the whole thing was rushed out in a single draft with no noteworthy editing in an effort to squeeze a few more pennies out of the Hitman name until shelving it.  It’s unclear if the lack of resolution on Marla and Douay is due to expectation on a sequel or simply not taking the time to clean up threads.

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