The US government plans the assassination of the Supreme Leader of North Korea by its two agents Will Robie and Jessica Reel. But the plan is busted. And the North Koreans want to take revenge and send a team on a suicide mission to the USA...
The Target reminded me of a James Bond movie: a lot of action with a rather weak story. For example, I found it unrealistic for Robie and Reel to go to North Korea to rescue two unimportant North Koreans from a concentration camp. And also the part with the neonazis didn't fit to the rest of the story and it felt out of place for me. It would have been better moved into its own book. What I liked were its two main characters Robie and Reel. And the narrative of their stay at a CIA training facility was quite intense.
Quotes from the book
The authorities were working like mad to treat his current illness so he could keep his official execution date in two months.
His appeal had carried on for so long that he'd never be executed now. It was because of his cancer. Ironically enough, the law said an inmate had to be in good health in order to be put to death. Yet they'd only saved him from a quick, painless demise so that nature could substitute a longer, far more painful one in the form of lung cancer that had spread all over him. Some would call that sweet justice. He just called it shitty luck.
The VP would normally have been part of such a meeting. However, if what they were planning went awry, he might be taking over the top spot because the president could very well be impeached. Thus they had to keep him out of the loop. It would be terrible for the country if the president had to leave office. It would be catastrophic if the VP were forced out too. The Constitution dictated that the top spot would then go to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And no one wanted the head of what could very well be the most dysfunctional group in Washington to be suddenly running the country.
It looked as though he had aged five years in the last five minutes. All American presidents had to make decisions that could shake the world. In numerous ways, the demands of the position were simply beyond the ability of a mere mortal to carry out.
There were more surveillance cameras than in the city of London and armed guards patrolled with German shepherd attack dogs that would not be your friends if you didn't belong here.
There were also minefields located on the perimeter; several deer and a black bear had discovered this fact at the exact moment they had died.
The next four hours were challenging, even by Robie's and Reel's standards. Swimming against machine-generated currents with weights on their ankles and wrists. Rope climbing up six stories without benefit of a net while a wind machine did its best to blow them off two-inch-wide ledges. [...] Next came push-ups and sit-ups and pull-ups in a sauna where the temperature soared well past a hundred degrees.
"Strip down here?" said Reel. "You have a problem getting naked in front of people, Reel?" - "No, but anyone that's not a doctor grabs my ass or my boobs, they won't wake up for a week."
He looked around the small space again. This might be the last place he ever saw. Training accidents happened at the CIA. They were just never publicized.
"I take it you don't enjoy killing." - "I enjoy a job well done. But it's not like I'm a serial killer. Serial killers love it. They're obsessed with the opportunity for domination of another human being. The rituals, the details. The hunt. The strike. I'm not obsessed with any of it. It's my job. It's what I do as a profession. For me it's a means to an end. I build a wall around it, do it, and then move on. I don't care who the target is. I only care that it's the target. It's not a human to me. It is a mission. That's all. I don't read any more into it than that. If I did, I couldn't do it."
At Bukchang everyone worked nearly all the time, in the coal mines, in the cement factories, and at other vocations. All of the work was dangerous. All of the workers were left totally unprotected. Many died from work accidents. Black lung disease alone had felled legions of forced coal miners. Food was largely unavailable. You were expected to scavenge for yourself, and families feasted on garbage, insects, weeds, and sometimes each other. Water came from the rain or the ground. It was dirty, and dysentery, among many other diseases, was rampant. These living conditions were used at Bukchang as highly effective population control.
He looked down at the mess of a human in front of him. She was like an animal found by the side of the road. He would treat her as such, which was how all prisoners here were treated. Any guard showing pity or kindness would in turn become a prisoner himself. Thus no guard ever showed compassion. From a totalitarian mind-set, it was a perfect arrangement.
She turned and kicked so high her foot caught him in the eye. Her jagged toenails ripped his pupil, blinding him.
Her name in the camp had been "Bitch". Every woman in the camp had had that name.
An electric rice cooker. This had been her reward from the Supreme Leader for her killing of the four men at Bukchang. That and an iPod loaded with country-and-western music.
[...] in a famous photo of some of the seamen, they surreptitiously had been giving the finger to the North Korean cameraman and symbolically to their captors while seemingly just clasping their hands. The North Koreans did not know what a middle finger meant and asked the sailors about it. To a man, they said, it was a Hawaiian symbol of good luck.
She did not believe in a benign higher being. She could not. She had suffered too much to think of a heavenly force in the sky that would let such evil walk the earth without lifting a hand to stop it.
She had grown up there [at the Yodok concentration camp]. She had nearly died there. But she had survived, the only one of her family to do so. And her survival had come at a terrible price. She had had to kill the rest of her family to be allowed to live.
No training in the world could really insulate you from the terrors of waterboarding.
"Only thing funny 'bout you, Junior, is your face. Like a hog's backside. That's why you had to cut them gals up. They ain't screwing somebody ugly as you without a knife to their throat."
"A man who knows his weaknesses can turn them into strengths."
Ironically, the old-fashioned pay phone might be the safest form of communication there was these days. NSA tended to focus more on mobile phone traffic and texts and emails. There were so few coin phones left that no one really bothered to monitor them anymore.
Being hung over a fire and made to confess something, anything to make the pain stop, was not good for one's complexion.
Dying prisoners were sometimes simply released so their deaths would not be officially reported, thereby making the mortality rates of the camps look better.
"You follow orders. You don't do analysis. Your job is to pull the trigger, not question those who tell you to do so."
An investigation crew came in and took some pictures and did some forensic analysis, but everyone in the ward could tell their hearts were hardly in it. A man who had committed vile murders and was scheduled to be executed for these crimes had tried to kill people with a stolen knife. Then he'd had his brains bashed in by a heroic prison guard for his troubles. They couldn't have cared less.
"So your father was a skinhead too?" - "I'm not sure he was that specific, actually. He basically hated everybody."
"And I know that you are honored beyond words, Comrade Yie, that you have been chosen by the Supreme Leader for such an important mission. I know that if you die in carrying it out, you will die with a heart full of pride that the Supreme Leader had such confidence in you. I cannot imagine a greater feeling when the end appears."
"He was a monster to me as a little girl. Now he's just pitiful. I can't believe I was ever afraid of that pathetic bastard." - "That's what growing up does for you. Destroys a lot of monsters."
"You know I do not permit anyone to call me by that name. I am Der Führer to all." - "Really? My nickname for you was always Little Dicky Dikes. Descriptive and accurate. I still don't know how you got me pregnant. I never felt a thing. Didn't even know you were inside me."
They weren't dead, merely tranquilized. Robie and his team didn't want to deprive the men of a long prison sentence.
"We might not be able to execute him. But we can make whatever time he has left as unpleasant as legally possible. And we will."
North Korea was perhaps the toughest challenge Robie and Reel had yet faced. The country was hard to get into and even more difficult to get out of. It had millions of soldiers and a paranoid citizenry well versed in spying on each other.
"Whether you win or lose, getting punched in the face still hurts."
"I always assume the worst. That way I'm rarely disappointed."
"We die right here. After you do, that is." - "So this is a suicide mission", said Reel. Jing-Sang smiled and shook his head. "It is death with great honor."