Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Athena Project by Brad Thor

Since this is my first exploration of Brad Thor's world, I suspect there's some back story and character histories that were lost on me, which likely would have helped. Having said that, The Athena Project is a really good read, but the characterization (and the tendency to have too much happen off the page) is what kept it from being a great read.

I expected more of a Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn type thriller going into it, but I was surprised instead to find it more of a James Bond kind of story - with an obvious twist. Here it's the women of Athena (an all-female Delta Force team) who run the show, with their male counterparts relegated to more of a sidekick or love interest role. They're all beautiful, athletic, and deadly, but I found little to distinguish them. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who, until I realized it didn't really matter - they're virtually interchangeable.

The man they're up against is a cruel, sadistic SOB, but not quite up to James Bond supervillain standards. The mad scientist he relies upon, however, is exactly the kind of guy you'd expect to find overseeing the supervillain's lair. He's entirely consumed by the potential of his experiments, and not above sacrificing a few whores (he refuses to see them as women, no matter how many times he's corrected) as human guinea pigs.

As for the experiment, that is 100% something that could have come from a lost Bond novel. Without giving too much away, the basic premise of the novel is that the Nazis experimented with teleportation/wormhole technology during the war, but were forced to abandon their equipment when the tide turned against them. The USA has been trying to recover (and reproduce) that technology for years, leading to a nice bit of urban legend propaganda about Denver International airport, but they're one step behind the bad guys.

That's where my other complaint comes in - far too much of the cool stuff is left off the page. The horrific aftermath of the failed experiments is detailed again and again, with body parts fused to rock and protruding from impossible places, but we never actually get to see the machine at work. Similarly, for all the effort that's put into setting up the clandestine secrets of Denver International, the payoff just isn't worth it.

Overall, it's a briskly paced novel, with some great action sequences, some amusing banter, and some inventive interrogation scenes that definitely raised an eyebrow or two. It's a book that has blockbuster movie written all over it, and strong enough in the storytelling that I'll gladly give Brad another chance.

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