The Battle Begins
So, a part of me, probably the same part of me that went “OK, read a long Jerry Ahern series in order”, said “OK, now read another, slightly less long Jerry Ahern series in order.” So it was time to go to the Defender series, namely the first installment, The Battle Begins.
Instead of John Rourke, ex-supercommando and high-powered gun nut, we have David Holden, ex-supercommando and high-powered gun nut. Cue a large amount of action as he and a group of “Patriots” fight back against a plot that can best be described as “Cyrus from The Warriors actually put his mega-gang war plan into action, and he was sponsored by the Kremlin.”
This has many of the same strengths as The Survivalist. Namely, it’s 80s action in novel form with a sincere attempt at humanizing its protagonists that isn’t seen as often as it should be. When the inevitable Detonics .45 pistol showed up, to me it was like the scene in a Zelda game when Link grabs the Master Sword. And the final battle is in a nuclear power plant with a computerized voice counting down the seconds until meltdown, with said meltdown able to be stopped by pushing one button.
Yet it has some of the Survivalist’s weaknesses as well, and then some. First, it’s a lot more politicized than the Survivalist ever was, and while the portrayal of the Soviets in Total War was decently evenhanded, the portrayal of the antagonists in this book is not. Ahern put a lot of effort into trying to dodge the uncomfortable racial implications by blatantly diversifying his heroes. He put very little in trying to make their opponents even slightly sympathetic. But then again, this is a 1980s action novel, and at least it’s not that much worse.
The phrase “at least it’s not that much worse” can arguably be applied to this book as a whole. Is it better than The Survivalist? No. Would I recommend it over the Survivalist to someone for their first Jerry Ahern book? Is it still a perfectly readable ridiculous over the top 1980s action novel? You bet it is.