One Man's Opinion: SEVERANCE PACKAGE by DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI
Severance Package (US) is bonkers. Seriously. I can’t recall reading anything that’s taken its premise to such extremes.
So bonkers is good, right?
Absolutely. Somehow, by the skin of his teeth, Duane Swierczynski pulls this one off to leave an exciting read that entertains and satisfies.
How to describe it? Imagine a Formula One driver who only needs one more victory to snatch the title from an old rival. There’s one more bend to get round and the driver’s lagging in second. All they can do is floor it, take the curve, hope nature is on their side and pray. The force is immense, the driver nearly flies off the track, but manages with a final turn of the wheel to keep control and take the chequered flag to become the new champion of the world.
Told you it was bonkers.
I could put it another way.
Molly Lewis is called in to work for a meeting on a Saturday morning. She gets up and dressed, then kills her husband with a bowl of potato salad.
The meeting, called by boss David, is on the thirty-sixth floor of a Philadelphia office block.
When everyone who’s going to make it is in the room, David explains that everyone is going to die. It’s in the national interest and is just one of those things that happens when you’re working for the secret service. The best way to do it is to take the easy way out- mix a glass of Champagne and orange juice, each containing a poison that would work in combination to offer a pain-free death.
For those not willing to choose their options, there’s no way of escape. All doors have been booby-trapped with Sarin and there are explosive devices everywhere.
The six employees all react to the situation in different ways. They’re all highly-skilled operatives in one form or another and giving in isn’t an option. If they could work as a team, things might be easy, only one of them is not who they seem and the personalities clash like titans.
Basically, this if office politics at its highest pitch.
While the employees battle it out for survival, two agents watch from afar. An American and a Scot watch the Philadelphia antics unfold, backing their favourites and watching them crossed off the list through the grizzly action before them.
I guess the reason it almost spins too far is that it’s difficult to see the people you’re rooting for being bumped off one by one. As each is sent to their wonderfully creative ending, the emotional investment lessens by a degree. Not that it should really matter. This is high rise, high octane, high adrenaline drama for the action junkie.
Apart from being a terrific read, it’s also a beautiful object. There are some books that feel great in your hands and this is one of them. Silky smooth, malleable and illustrated at regular intervals with art work I’d happily hang on my wall. What more could you ask for?