Good Cop, Bad War by Neil Woods, JS Rafaeli. Was prompted to read the book after reading this article. Neil Woods is a former undercover policeman who specialized in playing junkies in order to track down drug dealers. When he started around the start of the Nineties, he found it relatively easy and felt he was helping put away violent criminals.
As time passed and he moved around the country to places where his face wasn't known, he noticed the drug dealers adopting more countermeasures. They were more violent, more paranoid, and started using user-dealers as human shields: only making deals via them, and disposing of them with deliberate lethal overdoses when suspicious.
In this more paranoid world the only way he could make connections was by taking advantage of the more kindly of the junkies in an area, who were then put away for as long as the violent criminals he despised. At the same time his superiors pushed for more results, putting him at risk as he had to behave unrealistically, for instance making new deals when still supposed to be high from the last one.
Eventually he decided that this arms race wasn't just ineffective but actively harmful. He quit the force and became active in the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition movement.
Interesting book, with fascinating tales of life undercover.
What I'm Reading 2
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Another excellent bit of high-concept SF from Claire North. A handful of people, the ouroborans, live their lives over and over: as young children they recover the full memories of their previous life and can live again making different decisions.
The Cronus Club is a group of such people. After finding that attempts to change history have disastrous consequences, they ban major alterations to history.
It's classic SF in the way it carefully follows through the implications of its premise. Battles between ouroborans are like Cold War spying operations: you need to trace the "point of origin" of your opponent so you can take him out at birth or in the womb, while concealing your own point of origin from him.
The book feels like a bit of a cross between a time travel novel and a spy thriller. Unlike the last book of hers I read though, Touch, the pace does slacken at time and it becomes a bit more psychological.
Overall, I found it gripping and fascinating. Well worth reading.
What I'm Watching
Saw X-Men: Apocalypse. The retro series moves into the Eighties: this time there are Pac-Man machines and Ronald Reagan clips in the background as a mutant supervillain tries to take over the world, some teens struggle with angst, and Magneto and Mystique dither over whether to be villains or not.
Has a few nice touches like a super-speed rescue scene. But the final battle goes on far too long.
It's hard to keep interest in a long-term franchise going, but there are ways to do it: introduce new characters, have a long-term plotlines emerge, focus on smaller stories. This film doesn't do those: we've seen the same plot and characters before.
Also taking the series as a future history tends to undermine the basic concepts of the X-Men. It's partly about teenagers growing up, partly an allegory of civil rights struggle. Teen angst if you're reminded the characters have been around for decades. When you're reminded that every ten years or so mutant supervillains cause immense destruction and loss of life trying to take over the world, official hostility to mutants doesn't seem that unreasonable.
Mildly entertaining but you can easily miss it.
Pressures at work have thankfully eased off a bit. New team are fairly well up to speed, and with the other developer back at work I'm not as constantly slammed. New release is in testing: nothing came back in the last few days, though we'll probably have a few urgent fixes as the bugs come in.
Toddler had his third birthday recently, enjoyed it a lot. Though he did keep plaintively saying "It's my birthday!" for the next two days afterwards. Told him he gets another one in a year and fortunately he doesn't yet realise how long a year is.
Also had to take him to a hospital checkup which was a bit of a struggle as we were three hours in a waiting room waiting for various specialists. No problems reported though. Sat next to a little girl with a really horrific, huge, facial disfigurement, felt so sorry though she seemed happy enough. Had to work hard to try to act natural as I didn't want the toddler to pick up on it.
UK Politics. Is HMRC engaged in a policy of victimisation for the sake of achieving meaningless performance targets? The divided remains of Remain. Blair discovers centre ground is now a smouldering hole. Progressive Alliance? How May's government differs from Cameron's.
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