The convenience of the ability of deception always depends, especially in a literal sense, on the people surrounding a certain person or situation. This idealogy implants itself specifically in the narrative progression of “Targets Of Perception” [Jeffrey Stephens/Variance/329 pgs]. Drawing on many progressions that have served the Bourne novels so well with a slight dash of Dirk Pitt without the academic overarching, the lead character of Jordan Sandor here takes the undeniable bent of a man stuck between two lives and yet living both. The pacing here is what gives the novel a breathe of focus simply because the story progression highlights with emphasis on how characters will react beyond the actual fact of what they are doing. In most times, the problem is that characters within certain situations do not seem comfortable with their own skin. Sandor is a simple character but with enough brashness and humor to make him effusive but not overwrought. Certain story elements throw Jordan back into a cloister of situations that force him to react and reveal a terrorism effort headed by one of his former intelligence superiors with whom he has lost no love. The entrance of a female character always gives a sense of dynamic but like the recent movie “Book Of Eli”, Christine here comes off in terms of story imprint as little more than a plot progression to connect the dots. Her presence and explanation for her actions is mediocre at best. Despite this, her interaction with Jordan forces him to always question himself.
The other strong force in the novel is a former mercenary who decided he was in too deep. Michael Andrioli as character gives you those great lines one would see in a James Cameron film. He knows that he is knee deep in it but can only see the humor in the futility of his situation. The use of well perceived locations in addition to sun soaked visions of Palermo bring the vision of the climax into focus. While the resolve is more than satisfying, the book doesn’t trail too much below the surface which inherently might have bogged down the pace. “Targets Of Deception” is a fun fast read using some expected twists but allowing of the simple pleasures of a covert op hoping everything turns out his way. Out of 5, I give it a 3
“MEG: Hell’s Aquarium” [Steve Alten/Variance/342 pgs] is the Fourth Chapter in the continuing series of books. The original MEG had been the target for many starts on a Hollywood movie, the most specific being with Renny Harlin who eventually made “Deep Blue Sea” The story here uses more character conception along the lines of “Jaws” but with an added family component both in the guise of sharks and the humans itself. The aspect of bringing bigger predators into the mix definitely gives it a tinge of exciotement and the inclusion of the next generation by a bad-ass young 20-year-old playing possum with some military types funded by Dubai business backed by thoughts of success. The definite propensity author Steve Alten brings is a distinction of imagery despite, at times, a repetitive dialogue progression (specifically in tune to the romantic sitiuation between young David and his co-pilot/lover Kaylie). Granted the formulaic romance is simply meant as a story ploy but, in all actuality, it seems to work very well. The descent into the ancient sea 31,000 feet below the surface near the Phillipine Sea shows a pacing that seamlessly blends with the politics back on the mainland involving two juvenille MEGS held at an aquarium. Granted the great aspect about a book like this is that the special effects are created in your head especially with the later fight between the vicious mother MEG: Angel and a crocodilian monster from the deep. The angle that Alten uses at the very end as a dramatic choice is very mythic and sells the book in essence especially in terms of tragedy and family. Having not read any of the previous books, this story brings you into the world and, while referencing past material, doesn’t overwhelm it. A basis of the previous knolwedge probably would be preferable but it is not essential to the story though it does pervade in the characters a sense of caution. All said, “MEG: Hell’s Aquarium” is a swift read with a sense of character and drama while purveying the best special effect of all: your mind.