Set in 2003, just before the British invade Iraq, a young scientist called Sarah is kidnapped. Her father, Nick, (ex-soldier) begins the desperate search to locate her safely. Her on and off boyfriend, Jed, (soldier) feels useless as he’s sent in for a secret mission to locate and identify weapons of mass destruction and he isn’t able to help search for her. For at least half of the book. Later, he becomes very useful in finding her (oops, spoiler).
Lots of action, lots of screw ups, lots of testosterone. It’s a little unnerving just how detailed Ryan is when describing cutting someone’s throat. And when cutting a crowd down with an AK-47. Yeah, it’s clear that Ryan has a military background and isn’t using his imagination, which probably makes the descriptions more stomach churning; this is real life.
The fact that things go seriously wrong in each scene gives this an edge over a lot of other authors in the same genre. I don’t like it when the hero gets lucky and flies under the radar. That’s not real, that’s boring. I like it when they’re spotted, when the hero is injured, when he has to do some pretty unsanitary things to survive. Not that I’m a sadist, it’s just feeding into my desire to not always have a “fairy-tale” ending.
And there’s a tank! The boys get a tank and they blow shit up and blow the tank up… oh my God! I want a tank. Okay, I get the appeal of action books, it awakens the inner adrenaline junkie in all of us and has us all begging for a ride in the tank and wanting to blow some shit up.
Then we see the real scars of war. The depression and the PTS, the civilians killed, the fact that the enemy is young. It’s shocking and scary and brings us back to reality.
So we go from adrenaline high to sick and glad (personally) that I don’t have to make those choices of who lives and dies and is my life more valuable than a kid’s (because I’m not sure what the choice would be even hypothetically). It’s a roller coaster of emotion.
That said, it was a great read. I’m now fighting the itch to re-watch Strike Back, the television show based on Chris Ryan’s characters and stories (based on not an exact replica). I knew what I was getting into because I’d seen the action on screen before. So if you’re unsure if military action is for you, try watching the first episode of the first season of Strike Back. If you like it, finish the whole series and then go and find every single book ever published by Ryan.
If you don’t like it (for whatever reason) then good luck reading something else. I’m going to go and find some more Chris Ryan.