A debut novel creates a square-jawed hero who continues to fight despite formidable obstacles.
Former Navy SEAL Jake Banner is a highly skilled military man who on his last mission did the right thing instead of the political thing. He got court-martialed for his effort: “He was the martyr to sate the ego of the unworthy, the untested.” Leaving behind his estranged wife and daughter, Jake goes on the run from what he considers an injustice. In doing so, he makes himself a target for SURT, a shadowy criminal organization embedded in governments throughout the world: “The purpose of SURT…is to rip away the power from the oppressors, set fire to the world and watch it burn, and from the ashes a new regime would rise.” SURT surgically converts thrown-away soldiers such as Jake into identical, brainwashed warriors for its army. Jake, briefly captured, is rescued by a renegade SURT operative. He recruits Jake to be part of a small, special strike force that eliminates important SURT officials. Jake spends the rest of the novel carrying out missions against a duplicitous group he doesn’t understand for a man he doesn’t trust. For much of that time he’s using his well-honed skills to improvise amid changing conditions that cause his role to evolve. It’s obvious Williams has plans for a series featuring Jake, because he infuses so much back story into this volume, not all of it seemingly leading anywhere. SURT provides a labyrinthine opponent for Jake. But other than Jake’s unswerving sense of duty, the motivations for the main characters aren’t well-delineated by Williams. It’s easy to feel for Jake, since he’s been dealt a bad hand and is the most likable player. He is also the best developed character, even if he sometimes comes off as a garden-variety action hero. The reader doesn’t get to know the rest of the cast much at all, as many are discarded soon after they first appear. The result for readers is that there’s no one other than Jake to get attached to. Still, this volume has much to offer those who like their thrillers packed with adventures, first and foremost.
A well-planned starting point for a complex action series.