Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Book Review: “Act of War”

 

“Act of War” by Brad ThorThis is the fourteenth in the author’s Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne. In this novel, the author returns to the techno-thriller genre and places his characters, this time backed by a newly-elected U.S. president who is actually interested in defending the country, in the position of figuring out a complicated yet potentially devastating attack mounted by a nation-state adversary following the doctrine of unrestricted warfare, and covering its actions by operating through non-state parties apparently unrelated to the aggressor.

The trail goes through Pakistan, North Korea, and Nashville, Tennessee, with multiple parties trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle while the clock is ticking. Intelligence missions are launched into North Korea and the Arab Emirates to try to figure out what is going on. Finally, as the nature of the plot becomes clear, Nicholas (the Troll) brings the tools of Big Data to bear on the mystery to avert disaster.

This is a workmanlike thriller and a fine “airplane book”. There is less shoot-em-up action than in other novels in the series, and a part of the suspense is supposed to be the reader’s trying to figure out, along with the characters, the nature of the impending attack. Unfortunately, at least for me, it was obvious well before the halfway point in the story the answer to the puzzle, and knowing this was a substantial spoiler for the rest of the book. I’ve thought and written quite a bit about this scenario, so I may have been more attuned to the clues than the average reader.

The author invokes the tired canard about NASA’s priorities having been redirected toward reinforcing Muslim self-esteem. This is irritating (because it’s false), but plays no major part in the story. Still, it’s a good read, and I’ll be looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thor, Brad. Act of War. New York: Pocket Books, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4767-1713-5.

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  1. John Walker Contributor
    John Walker

    I should mention that the next Brad Thor novel (to be published on 2015-07-07) will be titled Code of Conduct. Hmmm….

    • #1
    • May 13, 2015, at 1:52 PM PDT
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  2. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Thanks for the review. Big Brad Thor fan here, both as an author and as a prolific conservative on Twitter.

    I really miss Vince Flynn though.

    • #2
    • May 13, 2015, at 4:10 PM PDT
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  3. Daniel Wood Inactive

    I have read several books in this series, and while I generally find myself in agreement with the author’s politics, his writing is always a bit of a letdown. The prose is clunky, the characters are paper thin, and the cliches are as thick as fleas on a stray dog. For stylishly written espionage thrillers, Daniel Silva is hard to beat.

    • #3
    • May 13, 2015, at 4:11 PM PDT
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  4. John Walker Contributor
    John Walker

    David Sussman:I really miss Vince Flynn though.

    Me too. Brad Thor has always been more “edgy”, occasionally crossing the boundary into science fiction (for example, The Athena Project), (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but Vince Flynn’s plots always seemed better grounded in reality, probably due to his hanging out with special operations people who knew how it was done.

    • #4
    • May 13, 2015, at 4:27 PM PDT
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  5. Dave Sussman Contributor

    John Walker:

    David Sussman:I really miss Vince Flynn though.

    Me too. Brad Thor has always been more “edgy”, occasionally crossing the boundary into science fiction (for example, The Athena Project), (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but Vince Flynn’s plots always seemed better grounded in reality, probably due to his hanging out with special operations people who knew how it was done.

    For my money Mitch Rapp was the best protagonist ever written. There was not one of Flynns book to which I didn’t lose precious sleeping time.

    • #5
    • May 13, 2015, at 5:01 PM PDT
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  6. Grimaud Inactive
    Grimaud Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I have enjoyed both authors but agree Flynn’s novels were a degree or two better crafted. Thor is a hoot as I saw him or heard him on some talk shows and pod casts. The other thought I had is to wonder at the loss of people we treasure like Vince Flynn and Andrew Breitbart and others who died too young.

    • #6
    • May 13, 2015, at 6:41 PM PDT
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  7. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    John Walker: This is irritating (because it’s false), but plays no major part in the story.

    No, actually, John, it’s not false. A little trip to Original Sources. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discusses his charges as Administrator. His “foremost” charge starts at the 0:58 mark..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCn10YWsY1Q

    • #7
    • May 13, 2015, at 6:49 PM PDT
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  8. John Walker Contributor
    John Walker

    Eeyore:

    John Walker: This is irritating (because it’s false), but plays no major part in the story.

    No, actually, John, it’s not false. A little trip to Original Sources. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discusses his charges as Administrator. His “foremost” charge starts at the 0:58 mark..

    Nobody denies that Charles Bolden made that rather bizarre assertion in the 2010 interview with Al Jazeera. But as Politifact documents in their March 12th, 2014 piece, the statement was quickly walked back, with then White House spokesman Robert Gibbs saying, “That was not his task, and that’s not the task of NASA.” A NASA spokesman, Michael Cabbage, subsequently responded to a query from Politifact Texas saying, “NASA’s core mission remains one of space exploration, science and aeronautics. Administrator Bolden regrets that a statement he made during a recent interview mischaracterized that core mission. The success of NASA’s efforts is increasingly enhanced by mutual cooperation with dozens of other countries around the world that are also committed to these efforts.” Bolden has not subsequently repeated the “Muslim outreach” comment. John Logsdon, a space historian at George Washington University said of Bolden, “He misspoke a bit and has since then had a fairly tight leash put on him by the White House.”

    There is no evidence of NASA spending money on Muslim outreach, nor has Congress authorised such expenditures. Certainly the kind of program exploited by the malefactors in Act of War does not and did not exist (which is fine, since it’s a work of fiction). NASA’s core mission remains, as it has been ever since Apollo, to create large numbers of civil service and contractor jobs in the districts and states of the powerful members of Congress who appropriate the money which funds the agency. This is why NASA is building a giant rocket for which there is no payload and no mission, and which will cost so much it can only fly about once every two years.

    This wasn’t the first nor the last dumb thing Charles Bolden has said since becoming NASA administrator. Bolden was a superb Marine aviator, commander, and NASA astronaut; you don’t rise to the rank of Major General without knowing your stuff and getting things done, but his skill set seems to be a poor fit with the largely political job of NASA administrator. The greatest NASA administrator, James Webb, was a lawyer, politician, and oil man who had no prior experience in aviation or space technology when he was appointed to head NASA in 1961 by President Kennedy.

    • #8
    • May 14, 2015, at 6:20 AM PDT
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  9. skoook Inactive

    The big three of current espionage thriller are Flynn , Silva and Thor in that order. Alex Berenson a worthwhile read in spite of his NYT genes.They all portray the CIA as a thoroughly politicized bureaucracy, riddled with risk adverse PCists.

    They all use the great 90 year old George Guidell to narrate their audio book productions bringing the protagonists to life. If you enjoyed the read you’ll love the listen.

    If you are John Sanford Prey/ Virgil fan, Richard Ferrone narrates his characters unforgettably

    Bed time listening for seniors

    • #9
    • May 14, 2015, at 11:38 AM PDT
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