Bez naděje by Julie Nováková is the book in the Agent JFK series which bears number 34. As setup in the previous books the EF agency is destroyed and lone survivors are scattered across the multiverse. JFK sets off on a solo mission in a post apocalyptic/totalitarian world trying to rescue an ex-agent who might have important information about the not-to-be-mentioned.
The story starts at a quick pace by JFK being spit out of a portal into the middle of an escape from a prison/mental facility. Luckily he picks the side of the good guys, the resistance fighting the ever tightening totalitarian regime which rules the Czech republic in a world which has been decimated by an outbreak of a deadly disease just a few decades earlier. The whole world has lost a large portion of its population, especially women, and tries to deal with the new status quo mostly by instituting a wide range of totalitarian regimes. The Czech regime is apparently one of the more humane ones but still a nightmare with its pro-procreation policies, experiments on humans and surveillance.
The story revolves around JFK being slowly admitted into the group of rebels by agreeing to assist them in their goals which partly overlaps with his own goal to save agent MacMillan. The leader of the group is motivated by a desire to keep her mentally challenged brother with her so that he’s not sent to a work camp. When the underground operation is inevitably sold out and attacked her brother is killed and she turns to blind vengeance against the leader of the regime. JFK is on a mission during the raid and doesn’t avoid suspicion of being a spy. But in the wake of the tragedy he beats the accusation and is charged with uncovering the real rat. At the same time he uses his experience from other worlds and tries to stabilize the situation in the group so that he can leverage them to fulfil his own agenda.
Ultimately he reaches his goals and helps to advance the goals of the rebels. However, he is forced to deal with his impact on the worlds he has been sent to. Even though he tries to keep the multiverse on an even keel he is, at least in some cases, a villain in to the people of the worlds he visits. This one is one of them.
Spoilers free zone below
The overall story is fine and has some pace. The book is surprisingly short which partially explains how fast some things happen. The underlying idea of a world-sized Petri dish, effects of a global tragedy and the question of legitimacy of totalitarianism and when legal falls into immoral are interesting but mostly heavy handed and explained in direct speech. From my perspective the theme could use more subtlety of at least the level of the prime minister whose motivations are shown to be good but leading to a tragedy - everyone thinks they’re good, nobody is evil for evil’s sake (except for X-Hawk who just wants to rule/destroy everything; the stab at that is actually funny in a mostly grim story).
All in all #34 is above average of the series. It could use some elaboration to better develop some of the ideas and a gentler touch in conveying the core ideas.Share