I should probably start off by mentioning that I am a huge fan of Daniel Suarez. I have read all of his previous books, a few of them more than once. He definitely has a great “not too distant” future sort of style that comes off as very plausible in his Sci-Fi Techno-Thriller novels. While I wouldn’t rate Change Agent as his be best work yet, I still give that to Daemon, it’s certainly not on the bottom of my list. They all rank pretty high in my opinion.
The general plot follows Kenneth Durand, who has been genetically altered via a Change Agent, sort of a DNA virus, to have the form of the wanted criminal Marcus Wyckes. A large proportion of the story follows Durand as he travels through Singapore and Thailand to try to find a way to return to his former self. He meets a variety of folks along the way good and bad, and must deal with some inner turmoil in the concepts of what truly makes a person who they are. Much of the near future aspects of this revolve around the concept of genomic manipulation primarily, but other more familiar concepts such as the mass use of drones and AR/VR style interfaces for technology.
The core story is well done and there is a nice sense of urgency along the way to Durand’s mission, mostly from the constant pursuit by the authorities. The main areas where it falls apart is the periphery. Some of Durand’s colleagues are involved in the pursuit of Durand/Wyckes but they don’t really seem to every question the possibility of Durand being anyone except who he appears to be, despite the world around them. There also isn’t a much done with Durand’s family, which is his entire motivation, beyond surface level exposure. Meanwhile many of the people Durand meets later feel like they don’t really have any good reason to trust him yet they often do explicitly. The subplot involving (the real) Wyckes’ henchman never feels quite fully explored either.
These sub plots could have been fleshed out a bit further and could have helped the story feel more complete. The core plot works regardless, though there are some parts that felt like they dragged a bit early on and around the three quarters mark. The real fun, like all of Daniel Suarez’s books, comes from the “what if” world that is presented. Daemon and Freedom looked at the web and AI, Kill Decision was AI and drones, Change Agent looks at genetics and technology overexposure.
If you enjoy the writing style of Daniel Suarez or similar authors such as Neal Stephenson, John Scalzi, or William Gibson, you’ll probably enjoy Change Agent.