Jimmy Thane was a successful manager before he turned to alcohol, drugs, and prostitutes. Now, being clean, he gets a job as the CEO at a failing software startup. He has seven weeks to turn it around before the company runs out of money, with the investors unwilling to provide additional capital. Soon he notices that there is something strange going on with this company: the former CEO disappeared without any trace, there are payments to an address that's just an empty house, and suddenly there is a customer, even though the demo failed spectacularly...
The start of No Way Back is a bit cruel as it begins with a torture scene. And you are left in the dark until the end about how this scene relates to the rest of the book, which is about Jimmy Thane's life and his work at the startup. This is very well written and I enjoyed it. And I thought: "Wow, this is one of the best thrillers I have read so far." But unfortunately, the end was a disappointment. I had to read it twice to understand it. And even then not everything made sense and questions remain.
Quotes from the book
How long could the victim last? That was always the question, when he tortured someone. Over the years, he had developed some rough rules: women last longer than men, blacks longer than whites. Smart people lasted longer than dumb ones, rich longer than poor. He had long ago given up trying to find reasons for these apparent truths: did the rich fight longer because they had more to lose? Were blacks better physical specimens than whites, as the racists suggested? Were men cowards and women strong?
[...] he would chop a finger right away, to prove his seriousness, and then another while the victim still couldn't believe the first was gone. He'd leave the stubs on the floor, in front of the victim, little talismans of bone and skin, a testament to his power and their doom.
The torturer removed the sock. The victim breathed hard through his mouth, in great gulping relief, as if – for the last hour – the problem had been the sock in his mouth, and not the fact that five of his fingers had been removed with a hunting knife.
In my corporate travels, I have seen a lot of reception desks. I have developed a very general, but highly accurate rule. The more money and attention lavished on the desk where the receptionist sits, the crappier the company, and the more incompetent the executives that hide behind it.
His appearance is either the result of unfortunate genetics, or of a botched facelift.
It's a simple point – that a business needs to make money – but you'd be surprised how often it's overlooked. After working in the same job for a couple of years, people tend to forget. They stop thinking about their company as a business, and see it more as adult day care. It's the place they go to keep busy between weekends. They forget a business has only one purpose. Not to entertain them. But to make money, for someone else.
What does it say about a marriage, when, after a decade, there is only one photo of husband and wife in the same frame?
Her orgasm sounds like a surprise – the noise a woman makes when she's been told someone has died.
This is the nature of the world: we wish things were one way, regret they are another, and blame the difference on someone other than ourselves.
David Paris, ex-VP of marketing, who took the news of his termination with such stoic good grace only twenty minutes ago, is standing on top of his desk, with his naked ass cheeks exposed. His pants are bunched at his ankles, and people are shouting, "David, no!" And: "Oh gross!" As I circle him, I see a stream of urine flowing in a graceful arc from David's impressively large cock to the floor of the bullpen.
"I tell you to stop asking questions, and what do you do? You ask another question."
It's the same at every company. The receptionist knows everything. About everyone.
What a strange feeling, to be successful. I've spent so many years failing, so many years stumbling from one disaster to the next, that I almost forgot what it's like.
My real job is simple, and doesn't require effort. It doesn't even – for that matter – require showing up. My job is this: Shut up, take the money, and don't ask questions.
"Are we friends?" - "Sure, Pete, we're friends. Friends that happen to bill each other. But friends."
It's hard not to sound paranoid after someone tells you that you are.
"If you see me ever again, it means I've come to kill you."
I know I've found the answer, even though I don't yet know the question.
"She has quite a record. Twelve arrests for prostitution in the past five years. Vegas is cracking down. Trying to be more family friendly. More Disney, less blow jobs."
"Mr Thane, I have more bullets than you have legs."
"You are too smart. Too good. You can't just live, and be stupid, and happy."