Narrator: Michael Ashcraft
on 25 July 2017
Length: 14 hrs and 3 mins
Genres: Science Thriller
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Marshall Hail was a husband, a father, a Physics Nobel Prize winner, and industrial billionaire. But when Hail's family was killed in a terrorist attack, he became a predator and redirected his vast industrial assets toward one goal - removing every person on the FBI's top 10 terrorist list.
With the help of his MIT colleagues, Hail designed and built a devastating arsenal of attack drones of all shapes and sizes that are flown by the nation's best young gamers. The world will come to realize that Marshall Hail possesses the capability of getting to anyone, anywhere, at any time - unleashing an operation so disturbing that the CIA has named it Operation Hail Storm.
©2016 Brett Arquette (P)2017 Brett Arquette
Marshall Hail’s private little army of well-trained gamers and drones are bringing a new edge to war on terror. From his specialized ship, he targets the FBI’s top ten list. However, the US government isn’t too sure they want a rogue force taking out terrorists, even a well-intentioned one.
There was quite a bit I liked about this book though the opening almost threw me off of it. I was concerned this espionage/military fiction would fall into some basic genre tropes but the tale surprised me. A highly placed North Korean government official is targeted, being under surveillance. He has a lot of ladies in bikinis that are just their for his entertainment. The first woman we meet on Hail’s ship has her physical attributes described long before we get to know her skills. So at first, I expected this to be a typical action-packed sausage fest where the ladies are just window dressing. I’m very glad I gave it more time as the story soon showed me that the ladies play as big a role as the men and several of them have character depth.
Marshall Hail is our main hero. He’s a physicist and a billionaire (another trope I could have done without) but he also has put on some weight during his quest to ferret out the world’s top terrorists. He once had a family but they were killed in a terrorist attack. Once his battleship was built (which has quality restaurants, a mall, gym, and movie theater), he searched out talented young people who also suffered losses in The Five, a major terrorist attack that left many families grieving and plenty of orphans.
I liked that several of the characters were teenagers and a little older. Coupled with the gamer take on flying drones and other aircraft, it added to that near-future cutting edge vibe the whole book has. In some ways, the teens act like teens, cheering triumphs, eating popcorn during missions, and doing little celebratory dances when a mission ends successfully. In other ways, most of them had to grow up quickly and they are taking on serious tasks in this hunt for terrorists.
The point of view switches among the main characters often, which I liked. CIA agent Kara Ramey is our second main character. She specializes in undercover work to plant surveillance equipment and gather basic intel. Her current target is a Russian arms dealer who is putting together a deal with North Korea. She’s a beautiful woman who comes from a family of wealth. Part of her job with the CIA is to seduce her targets so she can get closer to them. On the surface, this is a little cliched but I’m happy to report that Kara’s character grows as the story goes on. She has her personal reasons for using all her talents (linguistics, seduction, & CIA training) to target arms dealers. While I can appreciate her as a whole package, most of her page time is about how beautiful she is and what she can do between the sheets. I would have liked to see more of her other skills.
The action scenes are well spaced in between some political intrigue, antics on the ship, Kara’s seductions, and the tech of the fancy drones. I liked the science bits sprinkled throughout the story. I was engaged the entire time even if I occasionally rolled my eyes at some cliched moment or other. I especially enjoyed the little cat and mouse game between Kara and Marshall since neither trusts the other at the beginning. The suspense of the final big action scene was great. I wasn’t sure how successful the mission would be nor if all the bad guys would be dead by the end. The story could have ended after that scene and I would have been pretty satisfied.
Alas, there was a silly wrap up between Kara and Marshall. Kara knows Marshall has been monitoring her calls and he knows she knows. They’ve chatted openly about it. So that whole last bit between them came off pale in comparison to the excellent final action scenes. All in all, it was entertaining most of the time and the story moved along at a good pace so I could ignore the silly bits.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Michael Ashcraft has a very engaging voice. He makes a perfect Marshall Hail. His female voices were believable and all his character voices were distinct. There were several accents, both foreign and regional, which he performed well (Korean, Russian, various regional US). There were perhaps 6 repeated phrases throughout the recording that could have been cleaned up a bit but they didn’t detract much from the performance.
This review first appeared on Dab of Darkness.