Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
Author: E. E. Hunt
Publisher: Publish America
This novel is a mixed bag
Author: E. E. Hunt
Publisher: Publish America
I started this book with some reluctance. A lot of book marketing experts talk about the importance of a cover, but I never thought much about it until now. There’s nothing wrong with Hunt’s cover—it does a very good of telling the reader what the book is about, maybe too good. I knew before peeking inside that this book was about a terrorist attack on the Statue of Liberty. I started to think about this before I turned to the first page.
Considering what just happened in Times Square, is the Statue a believable terrorist target? Historically, perhaps; nowadays, I’m not so sure. The lines from Emma Lazurus’ sonnet “The New Colossus” is inscribed on a plaque in an exhibit on the second floor of the base. Today the oft-quoted “Give me your tired, your poor,…” probably should be morphed into “Give me your talented and cheap labor,…,” not only here but in Europe as the Western industrialized nations try to compete with the Chinese juggernaut.
On the other hand, the World Trade Center Towers were high-valued targets, as is all of Wall Street, because they were symbolic of Western capitalism and contained a lot of innocents. After one failed attempt, al Qaeda succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. But maybe the event wouldn’t have faded from our collective national memory so fast if the terrorists had hit the Statue.
Terrorists want to make a media splash. The success, if we can call it that, of a terrorist event is that it makes a political statement and kills a lot of innocents. Both elements are important. Times Square satisfies both requirements. On a weekend in summer vacation time, the Statue is perhaps another candidate target. In as sense, both targets are New York City. New York and Las Vegas are probably the two places in the country where the terrorists have a target representing everything they think is wrong with Western civilization. To maximize casualties, timing and luck are required—bad luck for us, good for them.
If it troubles you to talk coldly about such events, think of our first alert people and what they have to be trained for. We have a completely open society yet live in a dangerous world where the enemy is no longer wrapped up in a nice package—we are no longer fighting the Soviet Union. Instead, our major enemy is a virtual amoeba of redolent fundamentalism, al Qaeda, and this enemy has many faces. This book and similar ones, one of mine included, try to lead readers through many “what if” scenarios where more often than not the fictional heroes in the story save the day. From the events of 9/11 we know that reality can be very different.
Yet I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, to borrow an old cliché. Is the book entertaining? Yes, if you can get beyond some serious distractions (see below). Is the book believable? That’s more musings along the same lines as above, so I won’t try to answer the question in more detail. Are the characters interesting? Yes, with some caveats (see below).
Does the book teach us a lesson? Yes, but maybe not as well as it should. Its underlying message is that there are a lot of good Muslims and they can contribute to our Western societies just as well as Christians, Jews, Buddhists and others, if we give them a chance. I agree with Mr. Hunt that this message should be stated more often. It’s what the lines in Lazurus’ poem really mean. As much as some people in the U.S. would have it otherwise, America is not a theocracy. The Founding Fathers enriched our culture by laying the foundations for the creation of this wonderful melting pot.
One great distraction that hit me like a scooter being hit by a tractor trailer is the author’s style. Did he take writing lessons from Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells? It’s a retro style and it just doesn’t work for me. Few use those long, flowing Victorian sentences and page-long paragraphs anymore, at least not in fiction. I’m not asking him to be as terse as Lee Child or Jonathan Kellerman but I think short, concise sentences are appropriate for suspense. I have trouble with wordiness myself, but Hunt is a throwback. At the beginning Hunt’s style was a major distraction. By the end I was used to it—I’m an adaptable guy that can read several foreign languages and speak one fluently.
Another distraction that I just couldn’t overcome is the dialog. It’s also retro. No one talks like his characters talk any more. And maybe never did. I realize dialog is hard and a lot of writers have to really work hard to get it right. Hunt doesn’t do this. Moreover, he often uses dialog too much to explain future or past events, perhaps a recognition that he has lost the reader in the complexity of his writing.
The plot is also marred by weird spatial jumps. Why do the terrorists have to return to Vancouver from upstate New York? Answer: To recover the full plans of the tunnel in Queens that will be used in their attack on the Statue of Liberty. Talk about extended supply line. The original plans were confiscated on East 72nd Street. Why weren’t the full ones in upstate New York? Or in New Jersey? All this made me think that Vancouver was just contrived to have terror on a ferry boat. Come to think of it, that’s more terrifying than an attack on the Statue. And there are ferries in New York harbor.
Also be on the lookout for the anticlimax where one of my favorite characters in the book is killed. This seems to be just a device to allow the main character, who is a jerk, to go all out for the new girl in his life with less of a guilty conscience. And the jerk’s boss, a female jerk, pushes that new romance along. Also, even though the hero is a jerk, that first girl’s reaction of hurt and blame is not at all realistic or appropriate—maybe that’s why Hunt killed her?
You might get the idea that there is explicit sexual content in this book because the jerk strings along two women. You would be right, but remember, this is “Sherlock Holmes meets the jihadists.” The sexual language, however, is more like Tom Jones meets Fanny Hill. Cute, maybe, but I found it tiresome. You might like the sexy hymn scene, though—a nice twist for hedonists. Watch for it if that’s your thing.
Another major distraction: the book is badly in need of editing. Almost every page has a typo, or a double helper verb, or what not. Of course, typos are like bugs in computer programs—there’s always another one. Even the plaque on the Statue of Liberty has a typo. Yet, whether Publish America’s copy editor was slipping or Hunt had to do his own editing is irrelevant—the editing is one of the worst jobs I’ve seen in all the books I’ve reviewed. Many readers may even have difficulty in figuring out what Hunt wanted to say, which is disastrous for an author and unfair if he’s not the editor.
So this novel is a mixed bag. I generally have respect for someone that can sit down and produce a novel of 270 pages with a complicated plot and complex characters. That doesn’t mean such a novel should always be published, but it is what it is. If you can get by the distractions, you might enjoy this story. I got by them finally and could settle down to savor the story-telling. Hunt definitely has an interesting story to tell here. It just seems he only did 20 per cent of the work required to get that story out there to you, the reader.