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In this book’s defense, I’m pretty sure I’m not the ideal market the author had in mind.
Also in it’s defense, the macho, daredevil, lady-killer, completely unapologenic character we meet in the very beginning of Arctic Fire (which elicited much side eye from yours truly) was probably meant to appeal to the stereotypical male media consumer of the fast cars and buxom babes ideal.
And it occurred to me, as I rolled my eyes yet again (dangerous, since I was driving at the time), that were it not for growing up with Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan (my two favorite Bonds, in that order) as the playboy secret agent and just picked up one of the 007 novels fresh, I’d probably be less than thrilled with that main character as well.
So all those caveats aside, I still had major issues with the characters in this book, which means I had issues with the book itself. I mean, you don’t want heroes that are too goody-goody and shiny, they’re boring and unrelatable. But if the warring factions of a story are only distinguished by the fraction of a smidgen of less bad one is compared to the other, it makes cheering for one side over the other a bit confusing and can make any ending unsatisfying.
So why did I spend the last 8-10 hours listening to Arctic Fire (Book 1 in the Red Cell Series, by Stephen W Fray)? Because I knew it would have enough action and tension to keep me interested during my drives without the excessive navel-gazing or moony romance.
From the “back cover”
Troy Jensen could do it all: he conquered the Seven Summits, sailed solo around the world twice, and even fought a bull in a Mexican slum on a dare. So when word comes that a rogue wave has swept Troy off a crab fishing boat in the Bering Sea and into a watery grave, his brother, Jack, doesnâ€™t buy it.
Against his better judgment, Jack decides to quit his job as a Wall Street trader and head to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to investigate. Minutes after revealing his plan in his fatherâ€™s New York City office, Jack is nearly run down in the street. He doesnâ€™t think much of it at the time, but as he digs deeper into Troyâ€™s disappearance, Jack unearths information about RED-CELL-SEVEN (RCS), a super-secret American intelligence group that has operated for forty years in almost total secrecy and with complete impunityâ€”and its leaders intend to keep it that way at any cost.
An adrenaline-pumping tale of one manâ€™s descent into a hellish underworld populated by terrorists, assassins, and very bad â€œgood guys,â€ Arctic Fire explores the disturbing difference between doing what is good and doing what is right when it comes to protecting America from her greatest enemies.
Jack was a semi-likable character, flawed but open-minded comparedÂ to his more extreme father and brother (and friends). Okay, sure, he had the emotional maturity of a teenage boy, but still, he was attempting to do something akin to the right thing.
There was a chuckle when he told his pal he was going down to Florida to pick up a bartending job in The Keys to get away from his troubles–a little too much like Cocktail for me (which made me want to watch said movie again, except that I was afraid the nostalgia wouldn’t live up to the reality of a rewatch). And the love interest (obvious from the beginning), despite being a former cop, was more than willing to let a not-so-successful stock trader take the lead in their madcap race across the country with a rogue intel assassin on their tail. Yeah…
But the story also brought up some valid points. Most thrillers of this sort have their horrors safely removed from the reader by several degrees of not being in those professions, etc. that would put you into said dangerous situations. But as Jack asks his best friend, what about when it’s you they pick up to interrogate, even if you had nothing to do with anything, just because you know someone who might know something, not that you’d know, you know?
Where’s that line of right and wrong then?
The brutality of the scenes was bracing, but not unbelievably so. But the author stops short of gratuitous violence and gore, which I appreciate.
So while I’d probably give this story a 2 out of 5 (with 0 being couldn’t even finish it and 5 being oh-my-gawd-I-need-more-where’s-the-sequel), I sure as anything downloaded the next book in the series because yes, I wanted to know what happens next. With that said, had the story not been available as an audiobook on Kindle Unlimited (click here for a 30-Day Free Trial) I wouldn’t have spent actual money on it to find out. So, yeah, casual read okay, but not more than that.
Heard any good books, lately?