Book Review: Justicariat by Nathan Bolduc
In an alternate history, the newly-formed United Nations created an extra-national force called the Justicariat. Its members, the Justicars, hunt down and kill those they believe to be criminals, not bound by any authority or law higher than themselves. They have absolute immunity from local laws or regulations, though many will cooperate with/commandeer local law enforcement when it is convenient for them.
Two North American Justicars, Brian Galan and Noriko Tachibana, are assigned to a multi-jurisdiction operation when it’s learned an international syndicate has acquired what appears to be a doomsday weapon. Shortly after they arrive on the remote island, the mission goes south, and it’s unclear just how many enemies the Justicars actually have.
In the early part of the novel, we see both Justicar Galan and Justicar Tachibana on more typical operations, Galan tracking down a cop killer in Detroit, and Tachibana dealing with a mob boss in Las Vegas. Both of these end with considerable collateral deaths, although only Tachibana receives a mild reprimand; Galan faces no repercussions for straight up murdering a police officer for daring to punch him. We are assured that the Justicars themselves deal with Justicars who have gone wrong.
I’d expect there to be more suspicion of the Justicariat among the general population, but they seem to be generally admired, and the problem of potential corruption from their legal immunity is handwaved with intensive and selective training.
This is closest to the “military SF” subgenre, I think, with lots of loving description of weapons, emphasis on tactics, and stuff blowing up. There’s lots of action in here, with a climax out of a James Bond movie.
Sadly, little is done with the alternate history aspect of the story–there do seem to be more serial killers and terrorists than in our timeline, or perhaps the regular governments have left them to be taken care of by the Justicars since they don’t have to care about human rights or actual proof. I was reminded of Judge Dredd and how it’s made clear in that series that the Judges are part of the problem as well as the makeshift solution.
Torture is indulged in by both villains and nominal good guys, and rape is mentioned but does not happen on screen. Several people die in horrible ways beyond just violence. It’s mentioned more than once that mercy is a weakness, and forcibly demonstrated.
To be honest, the Justicariat creeps me out, so I wasn’t as sympathetic to the main characters as I suspect I was supposed to be. It’s a battle of very dark grey vs. absolute black.
From a writing aspect, there are multiple viewpoints (none from the bad guy side), and there’s a fair amount of redundancy between the characters’ accounts and dwelling on minutia–I think this novel could have been a good ten percent shorter with nothing of importance lost.
Still, if you are looking for science fiction action starring people who don’t have to deal with pettifogging regulations when they eliminate criminal scum, you could do worse. The end has a strong sequel hook, and that book is in the works.