Tuesday, January 19, 2010

“E-Force: State of Emergency”, by Sam Fisher (PanMacmillan)


High-octane action, with a distinctly Hollywood flair

In a world where governments and militaries spend trillions of dollars to precision-guide bombs on the other sides of the oceans, to rapidly deploy thousands of troops anywhere in the world, and cause almost limitless suffering in their quest for bigger and better weapons, why is there no special force whose mission is purely to rescue those in distress? A former marine, Mark Harrison, has been pondering this question for a long time. Now he has called in some favours and managed to get the right people to shift into gear. The result of his lobbying is E-Force, or “Emergency Force”: Six gifted, super-fit, highly trained individuals, backed up by a considerable support-staff. Their mission? Specialist rescue in times of global emergency. Think the FBI HRT team, only multinational, considerably better funded, and much more hi-tech.

Along with Harrison, the main characters are shuttle pilot Michaela Buchanan, cyber-genius Tom Erickson, demolitions-expert Pete Sherringham, encryption specialist Josh Thompson, and team-medic Dr. Stephanie Jacobs. E-Force employs some of the most highly advanced equipment on the planet, from Mach-10 jets to incredible cyber-suits that enhance their abilities to super-human levels, enjoying the fruits of researchers such as DARPA and other governmental experimental technology institutes.

After training and orientation (covered well in the novel), the newly formed, E-Force’s first mission is to save the life of US Senator Kyle Foreman, an ecologically-minded politician taking the world by storm. During a speech in LA, two bombs ripped through the huge conference centre venue. Many of Foreman’s audience have been killed, but miraculously Foreman has survived.

As fires rage and floors collapse throughout the centre, the Senator trapped inside, E-Force is sent in to rescue him. Just as the team makes its perilous way into the devastated building, so too does ‘the Dragon’: a psychotic assassin, hell-bent on taking out Foreman, and unwilling to let anything get in the way of fulfilling his contract.

This all sounds rather exciting, but I must say, this book didn’t start off well. The first action to take place, immediately in the novel, is set in Greece: “Nothing like this had been seen since two airliners had ploughed into the Twin Towers in New York City,” we are told. The problem is, the event in question is a coach dangling off a cliff. While unfortunate, this is hardly anywhere near the scale or tragedy of 9/11, and it soured my opinion of the book right away. Thankfully, the plot and story improves considerably and quickly, so this initial scepticism evaporated as I kept reading.

Fisher’s writing style is at times hyperbolic, given to over-writing emotions and sequences. This will annoy some readers, but if you are able to detach yourself from this, and get through the first four chapters, then the novel is actually pretty good fun. (And not to worry, Fisher is from the James Patterson-school of very short chapters.)

Overall, the novel works as it should: there’s action, a little suspense, and decent chemistry and camaraderie between the new team members. Most of the team are, of course, adonis-like and highly successful – perfect specimens in their fields, attractive and intelligent. Perhaps a little too perfect. This is not the case for Tom Erickson. Erickson is probably the most interesting character, so different is he from his teammates. First off, he’s crippled from the waist-down, and secondly he has considerable issues with authority (Harrison recruits him from prison, where he’s serving time for defrauding a D.C. bank of millions, just because he wanted to “fuck people around”). His sarcastic remarks add levity, but it’s clear that he is accepted as an integral part of the team.

Much like Matthew Reilly and James Rollins, Fisher utilises an enthusiasm for action with a keen eye for detail and futuristic tech. His non-action sequences and scenes are well written and feel natural, and the dialogue is not forced and doesn’t read like something taken from the Star Wars prequels (which contain some of the worst dialogue known to mankind). The plot progresses at a good pace, and unfolds in a logical, methodical progression that keeps you reading.

It’s not the best novel I’ve read (action or otherwise), but for a first outing, this is a pretty decent start. If I’m brutally honest, I’d recommend anything by James Rollins, Matthew Reilly and Tom Grace before I recommended this series.

That being said, if you’re looking for something to entertain, but not tax your mind, then E-Force could be the book for you. It shows promise for future instalments of the series, and I think this could form a decent, popular franchise.

Recommended, but with reservations.

For fans of: G.I.Joe, Matthew Reilly, James Rollins, Tom Grace, Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston

Fisher is currently writing the second E-Force adventure, Aftershock

[ Buy the Book: US, UK, Canada ]

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