- Paperback: 440 pages
- Publisher: Arena (2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1741752256
- ISBN-13: 978-1741752250
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
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Golden Serpent Paperback – Import, 2007
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Golden Serpent follows the adventures of Alan McQueen, an Aussie spy who works for ASIS - Australia's SIS. A few years after he's been credited with assassinating the world's most dangerous terrorist - Abu Sabaya - McQueen is sent to Indonesia to track a young Aussie official who's gone missing from the Australian embassy in Jakarta.
He's a funny, wise-cracking fellow this Alan McQueen, who wears his toughness as easily as he sinks his cold beers. We grow to like him especially as he's falling in love with an English woman and trying to resign from SIS - he thinks he's too old to do it anymore and is sick of the lying and subterfuge.
The missing consular girl's trail leads to Sulawesi where what is a routine job explodes into a whole other realm of violence, fear and double-crossing. How McQueen gets himself out of his predicaments, makes alliances with a bunch of scary Maori mercenaries and somehow stays out of the cross-hairs of the assassins sent by another organisation while also fighting off the internal politics of Aussie SIS, makes for a truly great thriller.
How he finds the time to determine what conspiracy is really going on at the Port of Singapore makes for highly entertaining reading.
I won't do a spoiler here, but the twists and turns keep you going until the end and the pace, action and political premises are so strong that you almost forget that Abu Sabaya is a real figure, hunted by the CIA for years.
This is Mark Abernethy's first novel but I've seen on the jackets of his later novels that one reviewer likened him to Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Lee Child. He's all that but with a distinctly dry Aussie wit and with a knack of writing action so that you feel like you're there, and characters who you feel you know.
I know it's just a book, but I'll never look at a container ship in the same way again!
This book may present mixed feelings as the author at times overloads the reader with unnecessary details such as McQueen's high school rugby rivalries, and other excessive background information appears to slow the reader and doesn't particularly contribute to understanding McQueen. Other characters are also often over analysed and again the reader is slowed by superfluous details.
The author also makes assumptions of the reader and referring to "Old Spice" aftershave by name and not describing its smell could leave many readers wondering what the actual significance of mentioning it is and there are those readers who may not even know of the brand. It is generally regarded as cheaper cologne but the author doesn't appear to provide enough direction in such situations. Also excessive brand name dropping seemed tacky and there was no need to mention McQueen wearing a black Adidas cap when just the colour would have achieved the same outcome.
The author's overuse of unnecessary details which at times were wrong or implausible also hurt the credibility of the narrative. For example the reference early on to Americans watching a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees is an unlikely situation because the teams play in different leagues and would only ever face off in inter-league fixtures or the Baseball World Series. Also mentioning surfer Kelly Slater as a California local is quite off the mark given he was born in Florida where he also resides.
A scene in the outback of Australia where there is a foreign terrorist base is another cause for the reader to question the plausibility of such a situation and indeed the story.
The narrative at times appears to lack a change of pace and intensity particularly during tense and action filled moments. This lack of transition may cause the reader to be restricted to words describing events, rather than a feeling of ferocity generated by short sharp sentences creating flashes of McQueen's Royal Marines trained skills and instincts fighting through confrontations.
Treachery carried out by some characters doesn't come as a great surprise due to the author overusing such characters thus the reader is left wondering why be told so much about a character if they know nothing of McQueen's true work as a spy. This creates too much of a prompt for the reader and the element of surprise is essentially thwarted on too many occasions.
There are events later in the story which do come as something of a surprise but the very fact there are tens of pages in hand when do or die situations appear easily suggests McQueen will find a way past the challenge.
The last quarter of the book is by far the most engaging stage of the narrative and the author does a decent job of wrapping up all the loose ends and closing with a fitting finish.
Nicholas R.W. Henning - Australian Author
It's one thing when characters in a novel speak in slang; it's quite another when the author writes all his prose in that same slangy voice. Things like (not a direct quote; an example of style), "So-and-so flew to Jakkers, and was met by a mob of Indos".
Which would translate into, "So-and-so flew to Jackarta, and was met by a group of Indonesians".
Abernathy writes as if he's telling a story to his mates in a pub. Maybe this sells books in Australia. I thought it was annoying as all hell. I'd have to keep stopping to try to figure out what I'd just read.
Is it too much trouble to write in proper English? Is this just an annoying affectation?
I don't know, and frankly don't care.