Review: The Awakening

The Awakening

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The tenth Survivalist book, The Awakening is when the series changes significantly. Having spent centuries in suspended animation to ride out a world-consuming fire wave underground, the Rourkes now emerge to take stock of the changes and aid the space-launched Eden Project as it prepares to return. John Rourke ages his children by selectively thawing and refreezing them so that they can be the same age as the adults when they wake up, and they emerge into a world where human life still exists.

This book, if I had to reedit/adapt the Survivalist series, probably wouldn’t even exist at all. I’d probably fold the recovery and the Eden Project return into an epilogue to Book 9 at worst and a few extra chapters at best, and then conclude the series there. But in actual history, the books were selling enough to continue and Ahern finally had the ability to make them more and more science fiction-y.

While the Survivalist series was never a “hard” setting to begin with (after all, the nuclear war caused multiple states to tumble into the ocean), here begins an even more contrived setup. There was an underground shelter. And another underground shelter. And another underground city. And an underwater city! It’s very much like a Bethesda Fallout game where there’s a lot of conveniently working stuff laying around centuries after the war, and it becomes a more obvious author’s toy with each new book after this.

(Later there will be a second timeskip that will obliterate the last traces of any post-apocalyptic residue in the setting, but that’s another story)

The actual book itself is more satisfactory Jerry Ahern action, but this is still the time when the series jumped the shark.

 

Review: The Council Of Ten

The Council Of Ten

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Jon Land’s The Council Of Ten is a thriller that starts off with the impression of being overly mundane. Launching with the obvious Miami Vice-inspired tone and location, the book starts slowly and there’s a fear of just being a slightly eccentric drug novel. Thankfully, the super-conspiracy reasserts itself, the Big Burly Bad Guy Thug appears, and soon all is right with the world.

It’s incredibly hard to review a lot of similar books by one author. The Council Of Ten is a little subpar by Jon Land standards. The MacGuffin not living up to some of the more ridiculous ones isn’t really too bad. Worse is that there’s a little too much space devoted to long and comparably mundane fights. But it still has all the wonderful craziness Land is known for, and, after its slow introduction, it never feels like a rote 51% book.

And besides, you’ve gotta give props to a book that has a conference room on its cover.

Review: The Yakusa Tattoo

The Yakusa Tattoo

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Jerry Ahern’s turn into (sort of) hardboiled detective fiction, The Yakusa Tattoo, is something.

Ahern has the stereotypical Hardboiled Vietnam Vet Police Officer being tasked to go to (a stereotypical) Japan for a secret mission. Cue a plot with everything from a Hunt For Red October-style super-submarine to lots and lots of ninja fights. What were you expecting from someone who wrote a 27-book centuries-long epic with Hitler’s corpse as a MacGuffin in one of the books?

The prose is – not exactly the best, to put it mildly. There are the huge descriptions of guns and holsters (although thankfully a Detonics only appears once). There are characters talking in gigantic blocky paragraph-speeches. There are perhaps a few too many fight scenes for the sake of fight scenes.

And yet it has the same “I’m not holding anything back” charm that the Survivalist series at its best had. I mean, it has ninjas and Cold War spy plots. And where else can you get a hardboiled Chicago officer storming an ancient castle?

Review: The Lost Codex

The Lost Codex

The third OPSIG Team Black book, The Lost Codex manages to sink lower than the first two-by a considerable amount. The bulk of the actual book is the most bland, clunky thriller against the most bland, generic terrorists imaginable, falling straight into the trap of being too “normal” to be bombastic but too exaggerated to be truly realistic.

This time, profiler Karen Vail is close to being a main character, and is handled in the worst possible way. She’s Miss Infodump and Miss Dragged Along Because The Plot Demands and , finally, Miss Action Heroine all in the same book.

But the icing on the cake is a barely connected bit of Dan Brown-style “secret religious history”. This is only linked to the “shoot the terrorist” plot in the thinniest, clumsiest way, and adds essentially nothing save for giving the book its title and a chance to sell it as being like Clive Cussler. It’s not. It’s worse. A lot worse.

 

Review: The Sword of the Templars

The Sword of the Templars

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A work in the genre of “Templar Catholic Secret History” thrillers that followed in the wake of The Da Vinci Code, Christopher Hyde’s (under the pen name “Paul Christopher”) The Sword of the Templars manages to be somehow fun. Even though by all “normal means” it shouldn’t be.

First, it manages to check every single box one could imagine in a thriller like this. Everything from the academic hero to the unreformed Nazi descendant villain to the general shenanigans to the nature of “the secret” did not exactly surprise me when it was revealed. Second, I’ll just say it sticks to the thriller norms in terms of plot, pacing and action. Third, there’s lavish descriptions of every place that seem different. Fourth, the research ranges from too precise (knowing what color a box of commercial Prvi Partizan ammunition comes in) to too obviously wrong (calling a “point guard” a football position and, worse, describing the details on a submachine gun in terms dubious at best and wrong at worst). Fifth and finally, there’s a lot of blatant direction mentions of other popular books, the very definition of throwing stones from a glass house.

However, it all works somehow. The ability of the villains to throw one goon after another with just the “right” amount of capability against the heroes, the secret history that’s somehow both ridiculous and bland at the same time, and the actually sound literary fundamentals made this readable. In fact, I might say I liked it in part because it hit each and every cliche-it felt like it was to action hero thrillers what Thunder of Erebus was to technothrillers.

Review: Vortex

Vortex

Jon Land’s third novel, Vortex, is easier for someone like me who’s already read many books to review. This is because this is where the writing finally clicks. This is where Jon Land goes from “out-there thriller author” to “Jon Land.”

For all that The Doomsday Spiral and The Lucifer Directive were out-there, this manages to one-up them with its tale of cosmic manipulation, a conspiracy that threatens the universe (yes, the universe), and psychic powers. The foot is on the crazy car gas pedal and it never leaves. From here, it’s just a short step to the “majesty” of Blaine McCracken.

Review: Angels Of War-Veritas

Angels Of War: Veritas

In short, D. J Thompsons Angels Of War: Veritas is a ridiculous tacticool fantasy. This is not a bad thing.

So the son of a Secretary of State described as looking like a “rich preppie kid” leads a conspiracy/army of people in gray trenchcoats that takes over the US. These “Deciders” reminded me nothing short of the enemies in a B-list first person shooter game from the 1990s or 2000s. The main character, with the book told in first person view, is caught up in the struggle against them.

When I said the book was “tacticool”, I meant it. Everything-and I mean everything is in the lens of “describe every gun in detail, describe every armored vehicle in detail, have everymen-turned-super-operators carry out their operations against the evil trenchcoat-men with TACTICAL PRECISION.” In another context, I might have found it annoying. Here, when it’s accompanied by “level bosses”, every popular conspiracy theory being true, and a fight scene that reminded me of the Raiden-Armstrong showdown in Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, it’s part of the fun.

Is this the best written book? No. But I had a lot of fun with it all the same. It’s the sort of thing that’s just so gonzo and ridiculous enough that it fits my standards for being fun.

(This is the last book review of 2019. I’ll be wrapping things up with a year in review post and then on to the new year!)

 

Review: OPSIG Team Black Hard Target

OPSIG Team Black: Hard Target

Fuldapocalypse has finally achieved a milestone. Between this and The Zone Hard Target, I’ve finally reviewed two books with the same title. After an assassination attempt on the vice president and president-elect occurs, the protagonists race to conduct an investigation.

The book is a little overstuffed, including an appearance by FBI profiler Karen Vail, another Jacobson character who has her own series. It has a tawdry love story and the main plot and a bunch of pushed-in-characters like her. In spite of the legitimate (if misguided) research, it has some obvious plot gaffes, like using a common 7.62x54mm round as a smoking gun (pun partially intended) when a more exotic caliber would have made a lot more sense.

But what’s worse is that it’s mixed with many of the elements of an over-the-top thriller (including a final twist that’s actually similar to something that happened in a Blaine McCracken book) that are sadly shackled to a plodding and grounded-in-all-the-wrong-ways “shoot the terrorist” story. Finally, the characters, including the main protagonist, aren’t very likeable or interesting either.

That being said, it’s still not the absolute worst cheap thriller out there. But there are definitely better ones by far, and there are many more I’d recommend ahead of this.

Review: The Lucifer Directive

The Lucifer Directive

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This early Jon Land thriller, his second published novel, has all the hallmarks now familiar to me after reading literally over a dozen of his books. In The Lucifer Directive, a young college student gets a wrong number call that changes the fate of him and the world. What makes this book relevant to the original goal of Fuldapocalypse is that the evil plot involves triggering a (nuclear) World War III.

It’s very hard to review a lot of books by the same author in the same style – even if it’s a style one enjoys. And this book, while a little clunkier than some of Land’s later books, still does his “escalating craziness” gambit very well.

In fact, think one of Land’s biggest strengths as a writer, besides his sheer over-the-topness, is his skill at that kind of plot “buildup”, for lack of a better word. Granted, it’s it’s not done in the most graceful way. Yet it works, and works very well.

Review: The Hunted

The Hunted

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Alan Jacobson’s The Hunted is the first entry in his OPSIG Team Black series of thrillers, although the later ones wouldn’t be written for some time after the initial publication date of this in 2001.

Reviewing this book was a little difficult. As I’ve said many times, I’m not the biggest fan of straight-up cloak and dagger books, which this definitely is. That being said, it’s kind of middling and feels (not surprisingly given its nature) like a smoothed-edges “grocery store thriller.” The climax is well-done, but getting there can be a slog.

The only thing that really jumped out for me was the book giving a “secret history” explanation for the death of Vince Foster, making the antagonist responsible. But even that tidbit can’t sustain this sluggish book.