Book Reviews

Book Review Policy

Authors and publishers--I review action thrillers. Could be science-action thriller; could be political-action thriller; could be contemporary-action thriller; could be military-action thriller; and so on. 

I do not review other genres. If you are interested in submitting your book, I prefer Kindle format, but will also review hardcover (paperback). Please contact me through the contacts page or email me at dedlund (at) lightmessages (dot) com. 

 

Slingshot: Building the Largest Machine in Human History 

51MoyZhVFGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Previously I reviewed “Operation Ivy Bells”, a submarine Cold-War thriller by Robert Williscroft, based on factual events involving the author. To say Williscroft has a fascinating resume is a huge understatement. Here’s a short summary from his Goodreads author page:

“Served 23 years in Navy and NOAA. Started as enlisted Submarine Sonar Tech, selected for the Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program, and graduated from Univ. of Wash. in Marine Physics and Meteorology. Returned to subs as Navy’s first Poseidon Weapons Officer. Then was Navigator, and Saturation Diving Officer on both catamaran mother vessels for the DSRV, and then as Officer in Charge of the Test Operations Group out of San Diego, conducting deep-ocean surveillance and data acquisition. In NOAA, directed diving ops throughout the Pacific and Atlantic. NOAA published and distributed Doctoral dissertation, A Method for Protecting Scuba Divers from the Hazards of Contaminated Water , to ports around the world.”

In “Slingshot”, the author takes us in a different direction from his exciting submarine adventure. Rather than visiting the depths of the ocean, we are going up, 81 kilometers to be exact. The plot revolves around three main characters—Alex, Margo, and Klaus—who are leading the construction of the largest machine ever built, a magnetic launch loop 2,000 kilometers in length. “Slingshot is part romance, part mystery (a search for none other than Amelia Earhart), part adventure, and very suspenseful. There’s enough real science in the launch loop machine to engage my inner geekdom—reminiscent of the masterful Michael Crichton. As the launch loop nears completion, acts of sabotage slow progress. But who is behind these misdeeds, and why? As the answers unfold, the reader is taken to a thrilling climax that will have you turning the pages well into the late night hours. Put on the coffee, and strap yourself in for a whirlwind adventure!

Left of Bang 

20170909_163007_HDRLeft of Bang is aimed at sharing the teachings from the Marine Corps Combat Hunter course. If one is in imminent danger but still left of bang, there is opportunity to avoid or prevent disaster. To the right of bang, all that can be done is reactionary in nature to assist the victims and, later, find the perpetrator.

Given that we share a dangerous world, no one is immune to the real threat of becoming a victim of violence at the hands of another. Whether we are considering a war zone in the Middle East or the streets of an average American city, the threat of danger is real and affects everyone. But don’t be misled, the authors are not presenting a book on self-defense using physical means. Rather, they present and discuss scientific means to read the intended actions of another person, with the goal being to detect aggressive and violent intentions before they become actions. Riley states this well in the introduction: “Getting left of bang requires two things. The first is a mindset and mentality to actively search your area for people that don’t fit in. The second is the knowledge to know what causes someone to stand out from the crowd.”

Chapters are devoted to topics ranging from combat profiling (no, this is NOT ethnic profiling), to baseline and anomalous behavior, to body language (including biometrics and kinesics). I found these chapters especially interesting and immediately began paying more attention to specific behavior in public locations. Being familiar with body language is useful (I’d argue) in most aspects of normal civilian live as we deal with colleagues, business contacts, and other people we meet daily.

I highly recommend Left of Bang for anyone interested in how to read the intentions of people before actions occur. If nothing else, it provides fascinating insight into human behavior.

Bonus—if you are an author, the book is loaded with descriptions of how the human body responds to stress. Good info for making your characters real! 

The Lost OrderThe Lost Order 

“The Knights of the Golden Circle was the largest and most dangerous clandestine organization in American history. It amassed billions in stolen gold and silver, all buried in hidden caches across the United States. Since 1865 treasure hunters have searched, but little of that immense wealth has been found.” So begins the teaser for The Lost Order.

This most recent thriller by Steve Berry easily demonstrates why he maintains bestselling-author status. The plot, featuring the indefatigable Cotton Malone, is steeped in historical references to the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC), a secretive organization dating to the mid-19th century whose goal was to annex territories in Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean, and add these lands to the Confederate States of America. The KGC later gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan, so there is good reason to characterize the KGC as a domestic terrorist organization. Berry has rooted the plot in the Smithosnian Institution, featuring the Castle, the natural history museum, and the American history museum prominently.

When we first meet Cotton, he and his partner, Cassiopeia, are on a treasure hunt in Arkansas, and they’ve discovered a cache of gold coins. Trouble soon finds them in the form of a sentinel, a member of the Order charged with protecting the treasure. Berry introduces us to the KGC and masterfully uses the dialog and action to provide a rich (and accurate) understanding of the history of this secretive group as well as their drive to engineer a strong and independent Confederate States of America.

Cotton and Cassiopeia soon find themselves in a race against members of the long-forgotten Order to find “the vault”—a hoard of gold and solver amassed by the KGC and, according to legend, worth an immense fortune. The treasure hunt involves deciphering clever clues inscribed on five stones. Finding the stones is only half the battle, as the sleuths must use all their wisdom and knowledge to piece together the clues. What the Order intends to treasure gives dual meaning to the title, The Lost Order.

Berry does not shy away from placing his main protagonists in peril, and there are moments where the outcome is uncertain (and I won’t reveal any spoilers!). The pace is steady and keeps the reader wanting more. For someone who enjoys history (yours truly), the connections to the Smithsonian museum and the history of the KGC are very enjoyable bonuses to a fantastic plot and fascinating characters.