Snippet Reviews: July 1-6, 2019

Ok, it’s time for the next round of snippet reviews.

Trident Force

Trident Force is one of those mushy, mediocre 2000s cheap thrillers, not bad so much as just dull. Not much action happens, and not much else interesting happens (it’s definitely not a Melville-style “slice of military life” book-it’s meant to be a thriller). A one sentence summary is “A lethargic version of SEAL Team Seven”.

I don’t know why I keep reading thrillers from this time period, but I do. Maybe it’s the hope of finding another Tin Soldiers, or maybe it’s a weird fascination with seeing a genre at its lowest.

Merchants Of War

Merchants of War is a decent mindless popcorn mecha action novel. It’s let down by a few weird perspective shifts, but still works if you just want to see mechs explode. You have to suspend disbelief about their effectiveness, but that’s true of almost all fiction.

Belfast Blitz

A middling entry in the Cody’s Army series, for the most part Belfast Blitz offers what one might expect from a second-tier 1980s action-adventure series. The “International Flashpoint” wheel landed on “Northern Ireland” for this adventure. The only standout is an incredibly telegraphed “tragic love story” between the British member of the Army and a local woman.

Review: Hellfire in Haiti

Hellfire in Haiti

codysarmy2

If I had to pick a favorite entry in the seven-book Cody’s Army series, Hellfire In Haiti would easily win. Nothing else has the same mix of action, fun, and good villains. I never had as much entertainment out of a Cody’s Army book as I did here.

The entire Cody’s Army series feels to me like the action adventure novel version one of those knockoff fighting games that tried to piggyback on the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat-not bad , but the incredibly obvious influence is still there, and it could only have existed in the middle of a very big pack. Still, none of the Cody’s Army books are unreadable, and this one in particular is a highlight of the entire genre.

Hellfire in Haiti sort of recycles its main plot from an earlier Cody’s Army book, Philippine Hardpunch. There, a former buddy of Marcos plots to reconquer the Philippines. Here, a former buddy of Duvalier plots to reconquer Haiti. The former book simply didn’t punch as hard as it could (I had to say it). This delivers a Mike Tyson haymaker.

Army member Rufe Murphy is kidnapped and subjected to a voodoo ritual, adding to the over-the-topness of this book. The villains in this book are excellent action-adventure fodder. There’s main villain Clairvius Bourreau  the ex-death squad leader and drug lord who enjoys dressing in showy outfits. And there’s his American ally Wes Taggart, a psychotic former Vietnam unit-mate of protagonist John Cody. That brought a smile to my face as Taggart reminded me of some of the sort of dubious “hard man who breaks the rules” “protagonists” of more recent war-fantasy novel.

And the final battle featuring the Army vs. Bourreau’s stronghold stands as the literary version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando. It’s easily one of the best climaxes I’ve read in an 80s action-adventure book. Cheap thrillers, especially ones of the time, don’t get much better than this.

Review: Cody’s Army

Cody’s Army

Earlier on this blog, I reviewed a later Cody’s Army book, DC Firestrike. Now I got the chance to read the first installment.

Who and What

Cody’s Army tells the story of former CIA super-agent John Cody, who mutinies after one dirty job too many , only to be roped back into the “game” and teamed up with Texan “Hawkeye” Hawkins, Brit Richard Caine, and pilot Rufe Murphy to create a top-secret 80s action super-team. Their first mission-save hostages on a plane that’s been taken to Lebanon.

It’s mostly the 80s action stuff known well (perhaps fitting, the characters are ‘B-List’ versions of creator Stephen Mertz’s other big hit, the MIA Hunter novels), although I had to smile a bit at the series title-an “Army” of only four people. This reminded me of the World War II joke about how the “[single digit number] Tank Army” was called that because it had only [a single digit number] of tanks in it”.

DEEP HISTORY OF TEM

Regrettably, I could see the trend here (and it’s a trend that by and large did not exist in the first wave of action adventure books in the 1970s) of going into huge detail on some existing piece of military hardware-and getting it wrong. Seeing the names of real rifles being applied in a weird way and worse, seeing a UH-1 with “40mm cannons” in turrets. (I could assume they meant grenade launchers, it’s the only way I can make sense of it)

Zombie Sorceresses

While this is full of 80s action novel stuff and some eyebrow-raisers like the protagonists using a B-52 as a normal transport, what was the most zombie sorceress about it to me involved characterization. John Cody goes from being a war-weary recluse to an eager fighter in the course of a single chapter.

Tank Booms

From the opening to the ending, the action is as ridiculously gory and over the top 80s as you might expect. It’s good enough for this kind of novel, especially as it ends with a particularly satisfying and spectacular helicopter dogfight.

The Only Score That Really Matters

This is still the start to a B-list 80s action series. But it’s a fun start to a B-list 80s action series, and works for anyone who likes the genre.

Review: DC Firestrike

Cody’s Army: DC Firestrike

Picking out cheap thrillers that would stand out from the pack is tricky. When I looked for examples of a second-tier 1980s action series called “Cody’s Army”, I deliberately aimed at the book with the most ridiculous setup (this is not a new activity on my part). Shooting terrorists in _____? Boring. Been there, done that. Shooting terrorists who’ve stormed DC and kidnapped a president? Now that’s something.

So DC Firestrike it was.

Who and What

So, the book stars action hero John Cody and his band of super-commandos, none of whom are that interesting. Opposing them are supervillain Libyans and their local gangster allies, who are only interesting in terms of being cringeworthy. Most of the book is flopping around in a disjointed plot and the actual kidnapping of the president doesn’t take place until over halfway through. I wondered if this was the setup for some kind of cliffhanger, but no, it’s over in a rushed finale.

DEEP HISTORY OF TEM

By the standards of 80s action novels, this is surprisingly infodump-free, at least concerning the descriptions of firearms. I think one of the few things that irritated me was how the author flipped back and forth between “magazine” and “clip” with no consistency.

Zombie Sorceresses

Well, this is par for the course as far as 80s action novels go. I think the biggest contrivance by far is of course leaving these few supercommandos to be the exact rescuer when you’d have airborne divisions combing the countryside, but this is the kind of series that doesn’t have to be logical.

Tank Booms

Most of (note the word most of) the action is pretty paint by numbers action-adventure. I say this despite not having read that many books in the genre. It’s that blatant. However, the conclusion is weird in that it’s actually somewhat realistic. Instead of the big 80s action battle, the heroes move in quickly, decisively, and unflashily.

I think this is a coincidence in that the author was clearly running out of space and just needed to wrap things up quickly, and so it turned into something more plausible by parallel coincidence.

The Only Score That Really Matters

Except for the unintentionally realistic conclusion and over-the-top premise, this is pretty much Middle Of The Road 1980s Action Novel. Not that that’s a bad thing.