Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
New Zealanders have a reputation for being impassive, stoic and apathetic. Even when governments sell us down the river to multi-nationals and spoil our name as an environmentally friendly culture, we do little. So what happens when one group decides the days of posturing and marching on parliament are over, and only full-on violence will get its message across? Enter the Green Machine, an organization willing to kill, kill, and kill again.
By the time the police call on trouble-shooter Al Brookes, six people are already dead and a young woman has been abducted. What follows is a race against time for Brookes, as he tries to foil the terrorists before total anarchy reigns.
I went into this book with no expectations whatsoever, having stumbled across it in the New Zealand fiction section of the excellent Arty Bees secondhand bookstore while visiting Wellington. I hadn't heard of Mr Brooker, or his various writings. Although he's a new-to-me name from New Zealand crime writing history, I later found out he'd written a variety of books across a few genres, including a couple of other crime-ish novels, THE RADICALS, and KILLER TURTLE.
I was pleasantly surprised by this read. THE MEAN GREEN MACHINE is an exciting story that took me back to my younger reading days where you just suspend disbelief and strap yourself in for the ride. Like watching a good popcorn flick, you could probably pick it apart afterwards in a number of ways if you tried, but sometimes it's nice to just enjoy the story for what it is. A fun, exciting tale with lots of action, some interesting characters, and enough twists to keep you wondering. And a few political issues salted in to get you thinking about our wider world and our place in it.
Historically the line between fighting for freedom and progress, and terrorism, can get blurred, as passionate groups (oppressed in some cases) resort to violence to get their issues heard, their point across, and change happening. In THE MEAN GREEN MACHINE, it seems like some extreme environmental activists have decided peaceful protest no longer works, and bombs start getting sent to people involved with pollution and abusing natural resources. Complicating the police investigation: the 'Green Machine' activists seem to consider their own people expendable too.
Three bombs, three explosions, and innocent civilians are getting killed too. It's a police and political nightmare in New Zealand, wrought by the Green Machine, who are tired of politicians and businessmen exploiting the environment for their own power and money-making. Man is the biggest threat to the natural world, and must be stopped by any means necessary. So the Green Machine is ready and willing to use extreme measures to try to change New Zealand, and then the world.
Superintendent Jim Gilliard is under extreme pressure, and after asking Al Brookes for help, the pair realise what's going on with the mysterious Green Machine is more organised, and treacherous, than anyone could have predicted. Time is running out, as the casualties continue to rise, as do fears of the Green Machine making a much larger statement, on a much larger scale.
THE MEAN GREEN MACHINE is just a flat-out fun read. It's tense, exciting, with plenty happening to keep the pages whirring over. I was drawn in quickly from the opening page, and dropped into the world Brooker creates. Environmental activists versus the police. An outsider called into help. Lots of threat looming. Lots of questions raised about who is behind it all, as well as the issues that are being fought over. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. It's a solid 3-star-plus book that is well worth grabbing if you come across it (it's out of print and harder-to-find nowadays).
Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 180 crime writers, discussed crime writing onstage at arts and literary festivals in Europe and Australasia, on national radio, has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson