Follow Here To Purchase The Ninth Orphan

Authors: James and Lance Morcan…

Publisher: Sterling Gate Books

ISBN: 978-0473193133: 

ASIN: B0056I4FKC (Kindle Edition)

This book is one big cliché, but readers will probably find it entertaining—something akin to an action-packed graphics-intensive computer game (all the graphics imagined, of course) or J. J. Abrams’ old TV program Alias, a show that has a similar plot. I assume that I’m reading the book correctly: I believe the authors had fun writing it and have no real message beyond campy entertainment, related to the illusive “literary fiction” of Harper Lee, J. D. Salinger, and Ernest Hemingway as Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack are to true art. Nevertheless, is it possible there’s a hidden message here that I missed?

Here’s the plot: Sebastian wants out. He’s a young but cold-blooded assassin employed by the ultra-secret society Omega, whose members have mingled among the rich and powerful and the government agencies all over the world that keep them that way. He has a scheme to get out, but la jolie femme Isabelle, the daughter of an ex-minister in France, takes the assassin’s picture by accident. Instead of eliminating her, he takes her hostage. That’s where his plans start coming apart. He falls in love with Isabelle; she falls in love with him. Omega chases them. French authorities chase them. Chinese agents chase them. Most of the book is about the chases and how our protagonists manage to survive them.

I’m not sure that I understand the membership requirements for Omega. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are members, but somehow Dubya and his gun-slingin’ sidekick Mr. Cheney do not make the grade—at least they are not mentioned. Sebastian, or Nine, becomes what he is as a child in Omega’s secret orphanage, ye little olde assassins’ school. He discovers that another orphan-agent-graduate cum laude, Seventeen, bent on killing him, is really his sister (Luke’s Princess Leia on steroids?—there’s also a Darth Vader parallel, i.e. Luke’s father—see below).

The scene on the train to Marseilles reminds me of the Orient Express setting in From Russia With Love—although a bit more confused. The scene with the caterer’s uniform under Sebastian’s wet suit reminds me of yet another James Bond film or book (memory fails me here). The hotel scene with Kentbridge (Nine’s mentor), Cho-Wu (a competing Chinese agent addicted to sex), and Isabelle’s parents was like a bit of bad Moliere or the recent Broadway play Lend Me A Tenor with Tony Shaloub.

The language is often redundant and repetitive. At the beginning, I tired of being beat over the head with the repeated description of the wound in Nine’s arm where he sliced himself open in order to remove a homing device. “The Porsche emerged from the apartment complex with Nine behind the wheel and Isabelle next to him.” Authors Morcan already said that was the way they started out—readers don’t need to be reminded again, unless something changed. As a writer, I expect my readers to be very attentive to what’s going on—maybe I’m wrong.

A few violent swings in point-of-view will also be disconcerting to the casual reader. The authors emphasize Nine’s chameleon nature but we don’t really get a good idea about what he really looks like. However, as he slowly discovers he’s not a robot running on blood-thirsty cruise control and can love someone, we learn a great deal about his character. This is good character development in writing, but the authors’ other characters are not so lucky, e.g. Seventeen and Kentbridge aka Darth Vader (Kentbridge is also a good stand-in for Yoda and his boss for the Emperor).

Most of the action takes place in France. My Spanish overwhelmed my French long ago, but I believe there were also errors committed in an attempt to provide local color. In any case, there were instances where some hint at what was being said was needed. Beyond the language mysteries, however, readers will find enough change of venue and this adds to the breathless action. None of the action takes place in Switzerland, though, so I wondered about the “loose canon” (I always thought the Swiss ran a tight ship, but maybe not).

There are a few more editing errors, the kind a good spelling and grammar checker should catch. Since I’m seeing examples of these more frequently in books from legacy publishers (cutbacks on editing staff?), I’ll ignore them—they are no longer just the province of hastily written and assembled indie books, especially eBooks (i.e. the word “indie” is no longer needed). Regional variations in the English language will appear as odd to some readers too. I can figure out what an “apartment car park” is, but what does “He suddenly twigged…” mean? (I’m guessing it means “He suddenly caught on…”?)

The plot is fun and a good example of thriller authors writing to leave their readers breathless. However, there are enough interludes to allow you to saunter off to the kitchen and find that leftover piece of fried chicken you had your eye on or slip a bag of corn into the micro to be popped. Nonetheless, there are some plot devices that didn’t work for me. One was the scene where Cho-Wu, the Chinese agent, used a listening device to hear a conversation at DST HQ. I don’t think so. Maybe in any other office, house, or apartment, but not in a top-secret government office building. Bugs won’t even work there—no way for the RF to get out, let alone sound waves. Faraday cages and soundproofing are old hat by now.

Some other troublesome plot devices: the underground installation so conveniently close to the Marseilles-bound train line; complete plans to the hotel and the ease of the underwater access to it; the secret code that turns agents into Manchurian Candidates (and the claim that some notable assassins in American history were directed to their targets in this manner); and the happy coincidence that Kentbridge and Seventeen both turn from bad to good in lockstep with Nine and his multiple epiphanies.

You might wonder how Omega originated (I always wondered about the parallel Alias’ organization). You also might wonder what happens to Seventeen as she walks away from her brother. Stay tuned—for those who wonder, or just want more of this breathless writing, a prequel and a sequel will be released this year. I’m not sure I care what happens to big sister (as long as Han Solo doesn’t win her heart), but I sure would like to know why Bush and Cheney aren’t in Omega. I was truly disappointed.

I had fun reading this book. It went down smooth and easy in a day and a night, helped along with snacks and plenty of Irish whiskey (also smooth and easy). Does a book need a meaty message to be entertaining? Certainly not. In this genre, though, it could make an Alias a Bourne Identity (you can imagine how long I’ve been waiting to say that!). I read the eBook version of this book. Its low price definitely allows the reader to try it on for size. I’m not sure I’d recommend springing for the paperback version, though—you can download various eBooks in this genre for its price. Caveat emptor.

Follow Here To Purchase The Ninth Orphan