Not By Sight
Time to read a spy novel. Not by Sight is a long-in-the-making debut novel by Ken Prescott, telling the story of Air Force super-agent Dennis Sandoval. It’s a debut novel in a genre I’ve only read a few books in and am not the biggest fan of overall… and I liked it.
As a book where the focus is on preventing World War III rather than starting it, the Iceland scale really isn’t applicable. From what I have seen in the spy-thriller (and thriller overall) genre, it doesn’t break the most new ground-but doesn’t have to.
This helps that it’s not an exact technothriller per se, but it’s less rivety and infodumpy than a lot of other books in its genre. They’re there, but it’s not that bad.
Let’s see, some of Sandoval’s feats are a little action hero-y, the plot twists are likewise similar, and there’s a little too much “conspiracy entanglement”. Other than that and the basic premise, the zombie sorceresses didn’t have to do all that much work. They don’t have to prevent World War III from going nuclear if World War III never starts, after all.
This had the feeling of a well-executed first novel. It has a few first-novel stumbles. Some of the prose gets clunky at times, there’s a bit too much telling and too little showing, and some of the dialogue gets a little exposition-y, especially in the final showdown.
But on the important parts, Prescott nailed it. The first is tone. It begins with and maintains a consistent “semi-grounded” tone. The second is narrative flow. Not By Sight’s multiple viewpoint characters don’t get in the way of a coherent, cohesive tale at all. The third is characters I cared about. I had an interest in the characters.
In fact, one of the issues I felt was that the characterization and chase through East Germany was a little too good. I was invested in them, so while the stakes raising war scare was understandable and plausible, I felt it wasn’t necessary. It didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment and didn’t feel contrived, but a smaller-scope tale could have been just as effective.
The Only Score That Really Matters
Whatever small issues I have with this book, I enjoyed it, recommend it, and eagerly await Prescott’s next one. It was a good genre shift away from both classic war fiction and Ahern’s cartoon novels.