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The Athena Project: A Thriller (The Scot Harvath Series) Mass Market Paperback – October 18, 2011
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"Think 007 in stilettos and you've got the women of "The Athena Project". The thriller genre just got shaken and stirred." - Sandra Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author of "Tough Customer"
"Thor nails it. A thriller both men "and" women will love." --James Rollins, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Doomsday Key"
About the Author
Brad Thor is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Use of Force, Foreign Agent, Code of Conduct, Act of War, Hidden Order, Black List, Full Black (one of Suspense Magazine’s best political thrillers of 2011), The Athena Project, Foreign Influence (one of Suspense Magazine’s best political thrillers of 2010), The Apostle, The Last Patriot (nominated best thriller of the year by the International Thriller Writers Association), The First Commandment, Takedown, Blowback (recognized as one of the “Top 100 Killer Thrillers of All Time” by NPR), State of the Union, Path of the Assassin, and The Lions of Lucerne. Visit his website at BradThor.com.
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“The Athena Project” was recommended to me by a friend and the best thing I can say about it was that after 100 pages or so I had to put it down as godawful. It’s “Charlie’s Angels” in print. The underlying theory is that a Special Ops force comprised of women would be a great asset to have for special situations. However, the way Brad Thor presents it is just too saccharin. Too many wisecracks under circumstances requiring hyper-attention to detail; too many crossed love interests; too many characters creating a story more like a bowl of spaghetti than a tangled web.
I think this book is the first in a series. If someone can tell me that a later work is better executed, I’ll give it a try but I think the tenner I spent on this one just went down the rat hole.
Now we want Mr Thor to fill this vehicle with characters and have them do something. That’s where problems start. Picasso said learn the rules to break the rules, but Mr Thor disregards Storytelling 101 in ways opposite of provocative.
The genius of an ensemble shines from its complementarity: eclectic characters with distinct abilities and world views together advance the plot by their combination. (Think of Star Trek or Mission Impossible.) Our four heroines, however — special ops commandos — are all the same: beautiful, sports-minded, and bland. They have different heights and hair color, but so what. We’re told early that one is mixed-race, but that factlet never surfaces again and is totally irrelevant to the plot. They could have come off the same volleyball team. Their external and internal dialogues are so vapid you wish they would just shut up and do TM. (I am SO sick of hearing “professional” as an accolade. It’s like being at a convention of mortgage brokers. REAL professionals, the kind who sacrifice their 20s getting letters after their name that mean something, like M.D., don’t go around calling each other “professional”.)
The villains are cookie-cutter, too: powerful, rich, ruthless; dwelling secretively in a fortress behind massive security; Eastern, from the arc that includes the old Austrian and Ottoman empires; disciplined, but with a weakness for beautiful women. One mad scientist from Australia is an exception among the baddies, but we barely see him. A shame.
Then there’s the action problem. Our girls get into firefight after firefight. They always win. None is ever wounded or taken prisoner. Every infiltration is successful, as is every exit. So is every ruse, every seduction. They always get their man. Isn’t a thriller supposed to have some thrills? Even when one kills a guy hand to hand, it’s perfunctory, as though the author is embarassed to say it; beginning, middle, and end of fight sequence: “She delivered a series of punches, culminating with a jab that dropped the man right where he stood.”
So I can’t go above three stars. Mr Thor has it in him to write female action characters — the up-close-and-personal fight in the prologue between a WWII heroine and a plane full of Nazis is terrific, and a near-rape-turned-consensual with a minor character starts to sizzle — but he’s kept this talent to himself for the Athena Project.
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