J.M. Guillen’s The Primary Protocol wastes no time in plunging us back into his eldrich world of technologically augmented agents waging a secret battle with Lovecraftian forces that threaten to overrun our rational realm. The cosmic horror of the Vyriim, introduced in Rationality Zero (the spawn point of this series), have threaded their nightmarish tentacles further into our world, seeking a beachhead, and as The Primary Protocol begins, we—and protagonist Michael Bishop—are already right in the thick of it.
This book is one long struggle, and I do mean that in a good way. From the moment Michael wakes to his situation, struggling to remember what’s real, to the book’s resolution, it’s an unending battle for him and his cadre to survive with bodies and minds intact. As a journey through a mysterious, infinite cityscape move from a creepy exploration into a series of chaotic nightmares, the author truly makes the reader feel Michael’s point of view on a visceral level. As the story unraveled and the book details each individual struggle with the Vyriim and their forces–mind-scarring psionics fought with technological weapons and the teamwork of Michael’s cadre—I could feel the characters’ stress. When quiet moments and relative sanctuaries were found, I felt the same relief as the characters.
I must point out that this strength of The Primary Protocol is also a slight weakness. Occasionally I did feel a bit exhausted trying to keep track of the descriptions of events and complex technological effects. But then, I usually read late at night when my brain is already tired from the day, so that may also just be my own problem. Nonetheless, I felt it more in this book than I did its predecessor.
J.M. Guillen has crafted an intricate world—well, universe(s), really—with detailed visions of how everything works, from technology, to culture, to organizations, to lore. He creates just as much details in his characters. Each member of Michael Bishop’s cadre has a role, a manner, and a distinct personality. It’s those distinctions that hold the book together even amid the chaos of a breathless battle to survive.
This book is a worthy read even if you haven’t read the first book in the series, as concepts are introduced in an organic fashion that bring new readers up to speed without putting off those (like me) who are already familiar with things.
Bottom line: If you like sci-fi with a Lovecraftian flavor and harrowing action, grab this book.
Note: I was given a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.