Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review - Stephen Coonts Deep Black

What?  Stephen Coonts' Deep Black.

What’s it about?  An ex-marine sniper who joins a deep cover NSA team comprising of a hot undercover agent, a burly one and an expletive-loving helicopter pilot to act as a babysitter (huh?) to them and to prevent a coup to overthrow the present government in Russia. But basically even after reading the novel, it's not clear what he is there for really.

Backcover Description: 
A spy plane gathering data on a new Russian weapon is blown out of the sky by a mysterious MiG.  Is it an accident or the start of the next world war?  One U.S. agency has what it takes to find out—the National Security agency and its covert operations team: Deep Black.

Working for the NSA, ex-Marine sniper Charlie Dean is dispatched to Russia, hooking up with former Delta Force trooper Lia DeFrancesca to find out what happened to the plane.  A Deep Black team stumbles across an even more alarming secret—a plot to assassinate the Russian president and overthrow democratic government by force.  The coup could have dire consequences for Russia and the world.  With no clearance from the government it’s called on to protect, the National Security Agency goes to war.  But before Lia and Dean can unravel the conspiracy, they learn that one of the spy plane’s passengers—an NSA techie—survived the crash.  Critical information could fall into enemy hands.  And that enemy is playing the game to the death.

So, is it worth reading? The backcover description reminds you of early Tom Clancy novels.  Having never heard of Stephen Coonts before, I picked this one on a whim.  The novel starts with Charlie Dean, an ex-marine who is asked by the NSA to join a deep cover special-op team in Russia after one of NSA's spy planes is shot down. The objective? To ensure that the plane is really FUBAR and nothing can be salvaged from its debris. A convincing objective? Didn't convince me.  Anyways, once in Russia the team gets new orders to prevent a coup that CIA intel suggests is imminent.

The plot is asinine for the most part. Most of the time the actions of the characters don't justify the cause and you wonder what exactly the brouhaha is about. The novel starts off at a fast pace as a thriller and you start anticipating for the plot twist or the big bang but unfortunately, it never comes. It's mainly just skedaddling across Russia to follow one objective or the other but the plot just never takes off. And therein lies the inherent problem with the novel.

What Stephen Coonts succeeds in is painting a very real picture of the Russian continent. You could almost imagine yourself along with the protagonists in their wild-goose hunts. But Coonts particularly excels at churning out some really slick repartee, especially among the protagonist and his lust interest, hot NSA agent Lia DeFrancesca. Also, the sexual tension between Charlie Dean and Lia is almost electric but alas, that also is not cashed upon even till the very end.

The novel has some of the best dialogues and repartee that I've ever read and that makes me want to give Mr. Coonts another chance which I guess I will, pretty soon. But somehow, this one is just not it.

Rating: 2.5/5 (find out about ratings here).

Final Word (Go or no go?):  No go.

Where do I buy this?  You don't.  But in case you're interested, see link below.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Review - Stephen King Desperation

What?  Stephen King's Desperation.

What’s it about?  Several travelers traversing the country --  a hotshot writer, a family on vacation with cute kids, a professor and his 'supposedly' cute wife -- who are forcefully confined in a little mining town called Desperation, Nevada, by a crazy policeman who is controlled by prehistoric evil forces.  This motley group of people has to stick together to survive and to find a way out of the town, i.e. Desperation.

Backcover Description:  There's a place alone Interstate 50 that some call the loneliest place on Earth. It's not a very nice place to live. It's an even worse place to die. It's known as Desperation, Nevada...

So, is it worth reading?  The backcover description is catchy enough to make you interested in the book even before you start reading. Stating that 'It's not a very nice place to live. It's an even worse place to die' to describe the eponymous place is enough to make you want to pick up the book.  But does the book live up the expectations set by the back cover? Somewhat yes.

The novel starts off quite well and you get a constant ominous feeling that something bad is about to happen and when it does, it comes unanticipatedly and adds to the impact of the first few chapters. There's this continuous feeling of something sinister going on.

However, ultimately it's only so long you realize that it is the quintessential (and boring) story of a group of survivors trying to well, survive. An idea that has been repeated in too many hollywood movies to count. Stephen King or no King, it's only a while that the suspense carries the book and you feel that it's the same old survivor story, just written in the twisted SK style with a lot of beating around the bush.

The ending is typical deus ex machina that King is infamous for and leaves you feeling unsatisfied just like a bad coffee.  The first part of the book is really good and if you want to read a survivor story done in Stephen King style, this just might be the book.

Rating: 3.5/5 (find out about ratings here).

Final Word (Go or no go?): Go! (read above though)

Where do I buy this?  See link below. 

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