Saturday, August 9, 2014

Gideon's Sword - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

   2011; 342 pages. Book #1 (of about to be 3) in the Gideon Crew series.  New Authors? : No.  Genre : Thriller; Acton-Adventure.  Overall Rating : 6*/10.

    It took a while, but Gideon Crew finally avenged the framing and murder of his father.  The bad news is somebody watched him do it.  The good news is they want to hire him to do an undercover job, and pay him well for his efforts.

    His mission will be to get the plans for a super-secret, super-powerful new weapon off of a Chinese scientist who is in the act of defecting.  The trouble is, no one knows what the weapon is, what the plans look like, and even if the defector has them on his person.  Well, there's also the fact that the Chinese agents will stop at nothing to prevent those plans from falling into anybody else’s hands.

What’s To Like...
    The action starts immediately and continues unabated until the final page.  The first 50 pages or so give Gideon’s backstory, and is pretty much unrelated to the rest of the story.  I’m okay with that though, since it quickly fleshes out the protagonist of this new series.

    There’s nothing paranormal here, which may be why Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child didn’t try to work it up into another Agent Pendergast novel.  The action seemed over-the-top, reminding me of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series.  But at least every female character doesn’t immediately hop into bed with Gideon; not even the hookers.

    There’s a smidgen of Mandarin Chinese here, albeit mostly Pinyin.  That’s a plus for me.  This is a standalone novel, although the Epilogue is a teaser for the sequel, Gideon's Corpse.

    Alas, to enjoy Gideon’s Sword you have to check your brain in at the door.  Gideon is frankly unbelievable.  He’s a brilliant scientist, a master thief, a super-smooth talker, and a proficient magician.  About all he lacks is genius-level computer skills, and he has a friend to take care of that..

     WTF’s abound.  Some examples.  The baddies have no qualms about killing the scientist, but seem strangely reluctant to do the same to Gideon.  There is a pointless trip to Hong Kong to try and locate a hooker.  What help can she possibly provide?  Gideon may have an incredible array of skills, but everyone else seems to be able to tail him with ease, often with a convenient tendency to save his butt.  In preparation for the climax, Gideon and his partner procure extensive provisions (night-vision goggles, guns, ammunition, etc.).  But radios or cell phones so the two can communicate and coordinate with each other?  Nah.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Zaftig (adj.)  :  (of a woman) having a full, rounded figure; plump.
Other KNW's : Mozzie; Animadversion

    “Why don’t you just tell him how his friend is?” persisted the woman.
    “Ma’am,” said Yveline, “I don’t make the rules.  Medical information is private.”
    A harried nurse arrived.  “Where’s the patient?”
    “He’s upset – collapsed.”  Yveline indicated the man.
    The nurse went over, suddenly putting on a smooth voice.  “Hello, my name is Rose.  What’s the problem?”
    The man choked up.  “He’s dead and they won’t tell me.”  (pg. 91)

    “Give it to her with a false cover story.  Dream something up.  Say it’s a contest of some kind.  You could win a trip to Oxford for the Isaac Newton Maths Conference in September.”
    “Can’t you not lie?  You make up a story even when there’s no need.”
    “I take no pleasure in lying.”
    “You’re the Holy Roman Emperor of liars.”  (pg. 151)

 “What’s wrong with patriotism – especially when it pays?”  (pg.  123)
    Perhaps the worst part about Gideon’s Sword is its sloppiness.  It starts with the book’s (and Amazon’s) blurb.  In 1988, 12-year-old Gideon watches his father get gunned down.  “Twelve years later”, in 1996, he seeks revenge.  Do the math, guys.  Sheesh.

    There is an illusion/allusion typo on page 209, which is unacceptable for a major publishing house.  And the meaning of a set of cryptic numbers, the supposed key to the mystery weapon, are never explained.  MacGuffin, anyone?

    All this makes me wonder if the book wasn’t ghost-written, with the names of Preston and Childs slapped on the cover to stimulate sales.  The estate of Robert Ludlum uses this, but at least they’re upfront about it.  I get the feeling James Patterson does it as well.  Indeed, if you presented Gideon’s Sword to me as an unpublished manuscript, I’d tell the writer(s) to go read a Preston-&-Child novel to see how the whole thing should be done.  Sigh.

    6 Stars.  Add two stars if you’re a fan of Clive Cussler novels.  FWIW, the book gets blasted by reviewers at Amazon, with the 1* (117) and 2* (88) ratings outpacing the 5* (68), 4* (66) and 3* (58) ones.  That’s jaw-dropping for a Preston-&-Child offering, but in this case, quite understandable.

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