The staff here at MojoFiction picked this book up on a whim and we don’t remember why. Okay, we do, but we won’t bore you with the story about how we bought a different book but left it at home so we needed something else for the train so we bought this from the little shop at the train station downtown. We will not bore you with that. The point is, we bought the book and, like the forging of the one ring, some things cannot be undone.
Let’s be clear, this book has a target audience, which is 15-year-old males, because grown men like MojoFiction shouldn’t be playing video games. See, we remember being 15 and reading Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, who was a super-secret-agent type person with carte blanche to do whatever was necessary to construct super-awesome action sequences of immense, consequence-free Hollywood violence. We loved it. We also remember playing a secret agent role-playing game called Top Secret and loving it even more (did we mention that we didn’t date a lot in high school?). So we understand and the nostalgia we felt while reading this book was palpable. So, for every teenage boy out there who thinks henchmen are a dime a dozen and there’s nothing that can’t be solved with only a tactical assault rifle and unlimited government clearance, this one’s for you:
Here’s the rundown:
Russian billionaire software mogul Igor Kasperov has vanished and the entire Russian intelligence community has mobilized to find him. Due to other recent events in Russia, the U.S. is very curious as to what’s going on, so they decide to try to find Igor themselves. Returning from South America in a failed attempt to locate some nuclear material that has recently gone missing from a high-security facility (in Russia!), Sam Fisher and his group, now called Fourth Echelon, are assigned to the mission.
Fourth Echelon is a super-duper black ops project that answers only to the president of the United States when they feel like calling her, which is often, because the president apparently doesn’t have anything else going on. They operate out of a military cargo plane refitted with a state-of-the-art computer system that can hack every security camera on earth at a moment’s notice, even in places where there aren’t any security cameras, and beam the information into Sam’s tri-focals (seriously, that is NOT a Zelda reference).
The plane stands ready to deliver Fourth Echelon to any action scene in the world where Sam Fisher might be needed to spring into action with his action-packed +5 Über-Patriotism of Action-ness. No henchman’s life is too small to spare; no grenade is too unnecessary to leave unexploded. When Chuck Norris goes to sleep, he checks under his bed for Sam Fisher. Yeah, we said it.
As Sam’s team inches closer to finding Kasperov, things get complicated when they find out the man’s daughter has been captured by a sinister GRU agent who will stop at nothing to get her target, including killing innocent people who would otherwise have nothing to do with the story. Thinking that the daughter may be the best way to find the father, Fourth Echelon moves in, and the chess match between intelligence forces is on.
As you might expect, the weakest aspect of the novel is the thin characterizations and forced emotional moments. The author knows his military hardware and tactics, but in the hands of automatons, it’s not that interesting. Oddly enough, Kasperov is a well-drawn character and his moments on the page are welcome. We thought that a greater focus on his run from the Russian authorities would have made for a fascinating read, as a civilian caught up in international espionage and cyber-terrorism, running from his country and trying to find his daughter, could have provided not only a solid emotional core for the story, but delivered a real sense of tension and fear. But this is a book about a video game, after all, so, understandably, the storyline stayed on Fisher and his team. But we think the author missed the best story.
So there you go. This book hits all the right marks for a video game tie-in, with cinematic action from cover to cover, high-tech gadgets and weaponry, and two highly trained soldiers HALO-jumping in to deliver justice from above, just like we imagined doing when we were 15.