Periodically Julia meets up along with her handler, Leo. Their interactions have the intimate sweetness of comparable relationships on The Americans, and similar to the older Russians on that show, he verges upon the doddery. “Sometimes Julia thought Leo may be shedding it,” Wang writes, when he shares “random confidences on numerous failings of the SPB, like an try and implant Scottish fold kittens with listening units, meant for the daughter of a Japanese government, just for the cats to vanish into the streets of Osaka (‘Even our animals wish to defect’).”
His understanding of intelligence is old-fashioned, and it’s an fascinating reminder of how onerous it’s to jot down a spy story now that communications are omnipresent and continuous. Gone is the clunk and craft of the midcentury no longer alive drop or ebook code, and as an alternative is the fragile interpersonal dance that passes today for informational safety. Breaches come from emotional incontinence: P.R. catastrophe hits Tangerine when a senior government screams at his spouse that he has proof of her texts along with her cocaine vendor, inadvertently demonstrating that he has been studying non-public communications.
It’s such failures of sentimental expertise that may destroy careers, today, and may also make them, and it’s precisely the appropriate place for Wang to find her horror. Armed with coaching and the intention to deceive, Julia finally ends up with entry to extra details about American non-public lives than anybody in historical past purely on the power of her interpersonal allure and her capacity to show energy dynamics to her benefit. She grows right into a cautionary determine who takes hole, company diversity-speak to its logical and most cynical conclusion, however alongside the best way Julia demonstrates that not even a educated operative can efficiently handle all of the calls for made on her time.
This is among the many satisfying issues about Impostor Syndrome, alongside Wang’s willingness to pit girls in opposition to one another and the ebook’s mix of Hollywood plot values with unusually clever humor. For whereas it shares sure options with dystopian office books, equivalent to Seasonal Associate or Severance, Wang’s novel higher remembers the fish-out-of-water mixed-genre display screen comedy, like Miss Congeniality or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Private Benjamin, all of which permit their feminine results in be humorous and likable whereas competent. Wang makes use of that flexibility to discover the ability tensions inherent to the digitized world, each on the interpersonal stage and on the stage of worldwide diplomacy, whereas by no means straying into didacticism. She restyles Silicon Valley’s famed “toxicity” round gender and race into precise poison and interprets office politics right into a caper of geopolitical consequence. Impostor Syndrome, like its two heroines, wears its greatness evenly.
This article was first printed in newrepublic.com