18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Greg Rucka is spinning a series of novels off his Oni Press comic-book series about adventure, personal lives, and office politics in the British secret service. His first effort, A Gentleman's Game, promises well for the venture, and it is interesting to see how the characters translate from the graphic format to the prose novel.
Rucka's great strength is in creating flawed yet highly compelling characters. His protagonist, the intense and deadly Tara Chace, made a terrific spy in the comics and easily carries the lesser burden she shoulders in the novel, where one of the villains -- a British citizen turned terrorist, equally compelling -- gets nearly equal time. The novel also follows Tara's bitter, hostile, chain-smoking, gold-hearted boss, the great Paul Crocker, as he does his best to navigate the treacherous shoals of intelligence office politics to clear the way for his agents. New characters, like an amusing pair of Israeli spymasters, and old favorites from the comics like Tom Wallace and the stolid Poole, are equally interesting and welcome.
Rucka has a deep knowledge of his subject, and while his descriptions of weapons can become tiresome (he's the kind of guy who knows, and thinks we have to know, how many foot-pounds of pressure people put on triggers and the brand name every gun anyone has), his acronym-laden spy jargon is convincing and adds flavor to the text.
Rucka may always be a better comic book writer than novelist because he seems weakest when he describes places, people, and action -- things an artist can easily cover him on. But even at his weakest, he is perfectly adequate, and much of this book finds him at his best. There may have been one fight too many towards the end (another possible holdover from a comic-book sensibility), but any weaknesses in this book are minor compared to its strengths. Chace and Crocker are terrific characters, the setting and plot are convincing, and the story is gripping. I picked up A Gentleman's Game right after work and I didn't even put it down to cook and eat. It's intelligent entertainment; I can't wait for the next one.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2004
Greg Rucka has been making a name for himself in the suspense genre for several years with his series of novels involving the enigmatic Atticus Kodiak. Rucka, however, is arguably best known to readers of sequential art collections (that would be comic books to you, fan boy!). He has been toiling mightily in that area for some years now, working on such A-list characters as Superman, Batman, Grendel, Wolverine and Wonder Woman. He has made what is arguably his greatest contribution to that genre with his own creation, a series of graphic novels titled QUEEN & COUNTRY, which involve the inner workings of a branch of a British intelligence agency. It is from the latter that A GENTLEMAN'S GAME, Rucka's latest novel, is drawn.
The focus of A GENTLEMAN'S GAME is Tara Chace, Minder One for The Division of Operations. She is, in less polite terms, an assassin, who is very good at what she does, which is to take out the bad guys --- the terrorists, who have the destruction of Great Britain on their minds and in their hearts. Chace does her job well and finds herself being offered up as a sacrificial lamb by the very agency, and country, to which she has sworn loyalty. Rucka deftly guides his reader through a complex plot, where agents are considered to be expendable commodities.
One of the more fascinating characters here, as in the QUEEN & COUNTRY books, is Paul Crocker, Director of Operations and Chace's superior officer. Crocker is a political animal who somehow maintains a balancing act between protecting the interests of Great Britain and those of his agents, even while one goal is at odds with the other. While one may occasionally differ with Rucka's worldview, he has a canny vision with respect to the manner in which the world ultimately works. While Rucka is quick to give credit to others when it comes to his insight, he is ultimately the channel through which this vision is communicated, and in such a riveting manner.
A GENTLEMAN'S GAME can only increase the width and depth of Rucka's readership. For those unfamiliar with his novels, there are the Atticus Kodiak books (among others) to explore. For those unfamiliar with his sequential art stories, QUEEN AND COUNTRY graphic novels await. And if you've been fortunate enough to read all of Rucka's work to date, you have the pleasure of anticipating his next novel. Recommended.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2004
Besides being known as a comic writer, Greg Rucka also has a career as a novelist, best known for his Atticus Kodiak thrillers. So it makes a certain amount of sense for him to combine his two worlds by writing a novel based on his creator-owned Queen & Country series. This presents us then with two questions: How does A Gentleman's Game work as a spy thriller, and how does it work as an extension of the comic book?
As a spy thriller, it works very well indeed. As the main protagonist, Tara Chase is a great character, highly competant but flawed. The plot is a doozy: following a terrorist attack on the London subway system, Tara's SIS section is called upon to retaliate against the terrorists. I won't spoil the plot any further, except to say that there are a couple of great twists that come just at the right time and are as logical as they are surprising. In fact, one of the greatest joys of the novel is that none of the characters have to act like idiots in order for the story to work. While characters may make bad decisions, they are not stupid decisions. I have no idea how accurate the details and settings of this novel are, but it certainly has the feel of authenticity and that Rucka has done his homework. His prose is detailed but doesn't get bogged down, and he can write action as well as the quieter moments. Given that this is based on a comic with which a majority of the readers will be unfamilar, there is a good deal of info-dumping in the first 50-100 pages to get things set up, but it is integrated into the plot and never feels like a plot summary.
A Gentleman's Game also works well as the next chapter for the Queen & Country series. While it is not necessary to be previously familiar with Tara Chase and the rest of the cast from the comic, fans of the comic will find much here to enjoy. Unlike many novels based on comics where the author has to pretty much put things back in place by the end of the book, since Rucka owns Queen & Country he can do whatever he wants, and by the end of A Gentleman's Game things have definitely changed in Tara's world. Rucka uses the opportunities inherent in the novel format to flesh out Tara's world and to give us insight into her internal life and the lives of those around her. This is a both a deeply personal story and a large plot-driven story; and while it would not have been impossible to tell in comic form, it would have had to have been very different, given the difference in the two mediums.
In closing, if you are a fan of spy thrillers, you will enjoy A Gentleman's Game, and if you are a fan of Queen & Country, this novel is a not-to-be-missed installment in the story of Tara Chase.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2009
The author deserves kudos for creating a main character who is not the usual ex-Special Forces guy with a broken heart/shady past. He also has a good ear for British English; there are however way too many scenes of people standing around desks glaring at each other. And the last third of the book devolves into a Clancyesque shoot-em-up against impossible odds. Without giving anything away, Chace's exploits while in Cairo are particularly preposterous.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2007
Better known for his "Atticus Kodiak" novels, Greg Rucka has started a new series about Tara Chase, a female British Secret Service agent, known as a "Minder" in the trade world of spy craft. Chase is just as tough and sexual as James Bond, but much more realistic with flaws that show up under extreme stress, not mention backstabbing by the British bureaucrats.
The first book in this new series is A Gentleman's Game and has Tara Chase still recovering from lost of an old friend and lover. When a terrorist attack on the London underground train system results in the deaths of over three hundred people, the British government decides to strike back in retaliation at the Moslems who planned this death and destruction. Chase is sent in to Yemen to assassinate the spiritual leader (Dr. Faud) of the Moslem terrorist group who instigated the attack. Faud's meeting with one of the main terrorist leaders, plus a Saudi prince, who funds many of the terrorist attacks. Chase is also working with the Israeli Mossad as a favor and has agreed to take out the two main people, if the opportunity presents itself. The mission proves to be a success from the British point of view, but to complete it, Chase had to kill Dr. Faud and the Saudi prince when they were praying in a Moslem mosque. The outrage from Saudi Arabia is intense and turns into a political embarrassment for the British government. To appease the Saudis, the British agree to turn over Chase to them so that she can be tried and executed. Chase's boss, Paul Crocker, has a bloody fit at what his government is doing and decides to save Chase by ordering her run. This leads her to Israel and the chance to win back the favor of the British government by killing the Moslem terrorist who escaped during the first mission and by taking out a camp of eighty Moslem terrorists. Chase turns to the first person she trusts, Tom Wallace, and together they attempt to do the impossible.
Though I sometimes got confused with all the long Moslem names, A Gentleman's Game had razor-sharp suspense and crackling action that held me to the end with utter fascination. When Chase is thrown to the wolves by her own government, you feel her hurt and sense of betrayal, and then you loudly clap your hands with glee when her boss and the other agents in her department assist her in getting out of London. Tara Chase also proves to be a most interesting character that instantly demands your complete attention. She loves to drink, to have sex, and to be on the high wire of a mission. She reminded me somewhat of Adam Hall's British secret agent, Quiller. I liked her and was rooting for her throughout the book In fact, I enjoyed the novel so much that I immediately started its sequel, Private Wars, right after I finished it and read another hundred pages in just a few short hours. This is a very compelling series that is sure to bring its author, Greg Rucka, more of the fame he so richly deserves. It would also make a great movie with Kate Beckingsale as Tara Chase. For those of you who are "Atticus Kodiak" fans, prepare yourselves for the newest novel in the series, Patriot Acts, which comes out in August. All in all, a splendid read that had me wanting more!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2005
A Gentleman's Game has to be one of the best novels ive read on the spy genre. Being a Queen and Country fan i was somewhat reticent to read this novel, after some consideration and trusting blindly in Rucka's craft I decided to give it a chance and let me tell you: it was worthy.
Ive read some reviews here and there and ive found two things: the ones who praise this work are totally on the spot and the ones who dismissed it (too Le Carre, Clancy-like) should get stuffed.
Now, I wont bother you with synopsis or insight on this masterpiece, Ill just say that whether you are a Q&C fan or not you should buy this book and read it, trust me is well worth your money.
on January 17, 2014
Queen and Country is a graphic novel series about the special operative unit with British secret intelligence service. Intelligence services are broadly divided into two groups. Intelligence gathering and analysis - the stuff which actually constitutes what is spying and covert action - the stuff which most people mistake for spying thanks largely to James Bond. Bond was NOT a spy. He was a covert operative (who went around telling everyone is real name!). The key difference is that ideally a spy gathers intelligence (inside secret info or plans) AND the opposition is UNAWARE that this has happened. Busting into some places and stealing the secret plans may be a coup but it would be only a temporary advantage. Much better would be to obtain the plans WITHOUT the opposition knowing that their plans are known.
Queen and Country focuses primarily on the story of Tara Chace who is young woman operative for the covert action end. She belongs to a unit called the Minders. There are typically three unimaginatively named MInder One, MInder Two and Minder Three. Her adventures take her around the post-cold war world but mostly to the middle East and former soviet states. She is tough, clever, and very capable. She is also very human and the toll her life takes on her physically and emotionally are depicted very clearly but not in a gratuitous fashion. It is very quickly understood why Minders don't last long. There are NO super cars, amazing gadgets or weapons, just stuff which actually exists.
For fans of older UK TV series, it will remind you of the show Sandbaggers - for a reason. Greg Rucka used that as an inspiration and acknowledges so. He shows the inter-service and political rivalries at work and how the two parts of the same secret service at often at odds with each other because of their fundamentally different natures. The true Intelligence end (spies embedded in various roles, embassies and covers around the world) value secrecy, quiet and being unnoticed. The covert action end (Chace and the Minders) because they do the rough and tumble stuff rarely can stay quiet.
This volume, A Gentleman's Game is NOT a graphic novel but rather a straight good-old fashion text novel which takes place between the events in the later stories of the graphic novels. It helps to have read Queen and Country Definitive Collection 1, but it is not a necessity. I won't go into the plot because part of the pleasure and seeing the twists unfold. Well worth your time if you enjoy more realistic secret intelligence stories.
A Gentleman's Game is the first in what bids to be a successful series of books from Greg Rucka, already well known for his strong Atticus Kodiak series. If you haven't read those, do so soon. It is important to read them in order. Shooting at Midnight is the best of the lot, but the whole lot is pretty compelling.
Anyway, back to A Gentleman's Game. All the blurbs keep drawing parallels to the TV series Alias. A few of the prior reviewers have also noted the similarities between an attack in the book on London's mass transit system and the tragic events of the summer of 2005. It is worth noting that there is a more useful parallal between A Gentleman's Game and another book, Mark Burnell's The Rhytym Section which also features a female assassin working for an ultra-secret British intelligence outfit where the enemy is just as likely to be a co-worker as it is a terorrist.
A Gentleman's Game compares quite favorably to The Rhytym Section, which has gone on to be the foundation of a strong series for Burnell. Rucka's ancillary characters are more finely drawn and deeper nuanced. He gets much further into the psyche of the terrorists than does Burnell, both in terms of their politics and in terms of their emotions.
There is also far more serious discussion of politics and differing threads of thought and belief in modern Islam. Islam is at least as diverse as modern Christianity is, although one would seldom think so to read most of the media in the West. How ironic to encounter a thoughtful discussion of why radical Islam believes there is a "Sixth Pillar of Wisdom" and that it is jihad in a thriler novel! Even more ironic is that an author who has spent time in the comic book genre has a lot to say about Wahhabism and why the House of Saud is at least as dangerous to the West as it is friendly.
As I mentioned earlier, Burnell has made his debut novel about a female assassin into the foundation of a series which has gotten better over time and now garners strong reviews from newspapers like The Economist. Let's hope Rucka does the same with his Tara Chace character.
on September 30, 2005
On July 7, 2005, three Moslem suicide bombers blew up three London underground trains, killing some 50 people.
In "A Gentleman's Game" by Greg Rucka (first published in 2004) the story starts with three Moslem suicide bombers blowing up three London underground trains!
How timely can you get?
I liked this book a lot. Partly because the story is very timely, couched in the post Sept. 11, 2001 world of Moslem terrorists vs. the West, and eerily predicting with great accuracy a terrorist attack in London. But I also liked the book because I liked the writing, I liked the characters, and I found the story very exciting, although a bit unrealistic.
The main protagonist is Tara Chace, a young woman who works for the British government in some kind of secret service department. On the book cover she is labeled as a spy, and inside the book she is referred to as an agent, but what she really is is an assassin, and a very good one. She and her two male colleagues are given the job of killing someone when the British government decides, for example after a terrorist attack on the London underground system, that someone somewhere needs to be killed.
Tara and the other characters in the book, including several of the bad guys, are portrayed in the story as very interesting people. They all have their character quirks and flaws, and thus come across as real people, not clichés.
Part of the story takes place in London, where there are many inter-departmental squabbles and the problems of politics vs. morals. The rest of the story takes place in the Middle East, in Yemen, Cairo, Israel and Saudi Arabia. I found the descriptions of Arab culture and attitudes very interesting, and the way in which Moslem fundamentalists recruit terrorists and suicide bombers to be fascinating.
At one point I was going to give "A Gentleman's Game" five stars, but the plot became a bit too unrealistic and the ending somewhat contrived. Still, I'm looking forward to reading more by Greg Rucka.
Incidentally, Greg Rucka has also written some graphic novels (comic books) with the same main characters, his "Queen and Country" series.
A blog reader recommended an author to me that he thought I might like. It's Greg Rucka, and I decided to start out with his first Queen & Country novel, A Gentleman's Game. While it wasn't quite a "can't put it down", I do plan on checking out the next installment...
Tara Chace works as a "minder" for the British government. Basically, she's a paid assassin who is employed to "clean up" situations that require the removal of particular individuals. She's very good at what she does, and she's the head minder of the elite group of three. She's sent to the Middle East to eliminate a terrorist figure who is responsible for a series of attacks on British soil. The goal is accomplished, but another person is also taken out as collateral damage. This incidental death enrages the Saudi government, and the only way out for a number of secret spy agencies is to turn over Chace as a sacrificial lamb. Knowing she'd be tried and executed, she goes on the run and attempts to accomplish the impossible... the destruction of an entire terrorist camp with only her and her former lover as the attacking force. If she wins, she lives. If she doesn't, she dies either way...
Overall, A Gentleman's Game is a nice read. Seeing a woman as a paid killer is something you don't normally encounter in a novel, so it made for an interesting premise. The story seemed to move a bit slow in places, but not so much that I wanted to go into skim mode to get to the end. Private Wars is his follow-up novel, and I've already decided that it'll be my next recreational read. I'm hoping that the series is headed in the right direction, because I could end up liking it a lot...