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The Experiencers (The Valiant Chronicles Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 233 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Judging from the cover (I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover) I was expecting a story about a stalwart hero bravely fighting an alien invasion; a guy relying on his survivalist skills to outwit strange visitors from another planet.
Instead, I met Michael "Mick" Valiant, an assassin who has - for two decades - gone around killing people without really asking why or even worrying about it.
Until recently, that is.
I'm not going to spoil author Val Tobin's hard work by digging too deeply into the plot. That would be unfair to future readers and to Ms. Tobin. I will say, however, that Valiant works for an undercover agency that is in league with the aliens and has been for a long, long time. He was recruited and trained by the agency to be a remorseless killer. The problem is, after marrying a woman who has no idea what he does for a living, he's found himself asking why some people must die.
For regular folks, that's a legitimate question.
For assassins, um, not so much.
"The Experiencers" is, as I said, the first book in a series and as such it lays the groundwork for the stories to come. As readers we get to know something about Mick, but not a great deal beyond the fact that he has an astonishing ability to wreak havoc on other human beings. We also meet the members of an amateur UFO group, some of whom have been marked for death and others who have been designated for capture and experimentation. In essence, we get to know just enough to make us want to know more.
Mick Valiant is an unusual character to star in a science fiction series. He is not lovable; in fact throughout much of the book he seems to have few redeeming qualities. He's very good at his job, or was before he started having doubts, but he's not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination. He is secretive, is ruining his marriage to a perfectly wonderful woman, and - oh yeah - he kills unsuspecting people, many of whom are likely innocent of any wrongdoing.
Tobin's narrative style is a little unusual as well. It's fast paced and "in your face" a lot of the time. She doesn't pull many punches: I'd almost classify it as "sci-fi noir" in some respects because some of the characters are pretty hard-bitten and the action often takes place in the shadows. In addition to the science fiction elements in the story, there is also a strong dose of the paranormal, and an unusual - and fairly erotic - romance. Tobin ties these elements together nicely, not an easy feat.
In summary: "The Experiencers" is a high-energy sci-fi thriller and a book I highly recommend.
The story also involves conspiracies involving the government, black ops agencies, and cabals spanning the globe that seem all too real. Did I tell you I love a good conspiracy theory novel? The story is also full of eco-consciousness, with tales of environmental degradation and corporations wantonly destroying natural resources as rapidly as they could get their hands on them for profit. This aspect of the story felt all too real and easily ripped from headline news. Did I mention I love a socially conscious narrative that helps people to wake up and take action against all the injustice going on in the world?
I felt as if the slot machine was going crazy at Vegas, with the novel ticking off all of my favorite themes and sub-genres in one. All dimensions of the novel, moreover, were handled ably throughout.
I enjoyed Michael (the trained assassin) who struck me as a kind of Bruce Willis action hero. He’s clearly his own man as opposed to a ready-made character yanked from one story and slotted into this one. But the point is, he’s likable on the inside for however tough he is on the outside.
And our psychic heroine who Michael is tasked with killing but secretly wants to protect—yes it’s one of those complicated relationships—was every bit as engaging.
Looking forward to further installments in what I hope will be a very long series.