BANGALORE: Alabama prison's sick hospital ward and concentration camps in North Korea. US government-hired assassins Will Robie and Jessica Reel and North Korea's Supreme Leader's killer asset Comrade Yie Chung-Cha. The American president's 10-year-old son having trouble adjusting to the White House life and rescuee Min from the Yodok camp learning survival skills of free life. The Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, who expects openly for his people to die serving his country, hence synonymously him, the Director of CIA, who is secretly plotting to ensure two of his best agents die training for a mission or on field and the US State head (a fictitious Thomas Cassion) who seems, despite all his apparent power, far more human than the other two.
Bringing these comparisons and contrasts to the fore is the third of the Will Robie series penned by lawyer-author David Baldacci, The Target. A thriller, it doesn't completely miss out on imagery, project shallow characters or hurtle through its entire 418 pages at break-neck speed.
The novel takes off with an attempted US coup of North Korea which goes horribly wrong, and both sides begin with plans, missions fraught with dangers, whose success doesn't guarantee survival.
After the initial bit from murderer-convict Earl Fontaine's point of view, the reader becomes a privileged witness to a top-secret three-member meeting with the US president, his advisor and the director of CIA. Here too, the realistic aspect takes over for a couple of paragraphs.
"They were in the Situation Room complex in the basement of the West Wing of the White House. Sometimes referred to as the "Woodshed," the complex was first built during President Kennedy's term after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. During Kennedy's era a single analyst from the CIA would man the Situation Room in an unbroken twenty-hour shift, sleeping there as well. Later, five "Watch Teams" comprised of thirty or so carefully vetted personnel operated the Situation Room on a 24/7 basis..."
The larger chunks give you points of view of Reel, Robie, Chung-Cha and Fontaine, while there are smaller bits from the CIA's director, its deputy director and other minor characters' perspectives as well.
The title is intriguing beacause you're unsure who the actual target is (spoiler alert!) -- Robie and Reel, the Supreme Leader, the US First family (excluding the president) or one of the two important characters who do fall during the course of the book, General Pak (supposedly the Supreme Leader's primary advisor and militant) and Yie Chung-Cha.
Although the last emerges as the true hero of the story, better at combat and saving even the lives of the superhuman CIA central characters, she is the exception: most other North Koreans with any semblance of power featured in the book seem more evil than the Americans, indicating an undercurrent of cultural bias.
Lastly, a piece of advice -- if you intend to pick up this novel, read the two prequels 'The Innocent' and 'The Hit' first, so you understand references to Robie and Reel's past better.