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The Ragnarök Conspiracy Paperback – October 9, 2012
The Amazon Book Review
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Terrorism strikes from within in Stebbins’ first novel. Muslims around the world have targets on their backs and, regardless of their true political affiliations, are being shot and killed. FBI agent John Savas, who has experienced personal tragedy and is lucky to be back on the job, must put his personal feelings aside if he’s going to stop the enemy from succeeding. This time the terrorists are former U.S. military personnel, and they know all the tricks to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. Stebbins explores the line between security and liberty while the bullets pierce skulls. The story line sometimes veers too much into a political diatribe, and some major clichés in the climax are a bit hard to swallow. That aside, it’s still a worthwhile read. Fans of the Vince Flynn books will enjoy Stebbins’ take on terrorism with a twist. --Jeff Ayers
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This exciting and fast-paced plot with its imaginative link to an unknown code and Norse legends is filled with profound reflections on stereotyping, pre-judging, and acceptance. In the midst of all the violence, bloodshed, anger and hatred are woven strong elements of friendship, hope, deliverance and love. It's a supercharged, captivating story filled with horrifying events as John and his team struggle to find an elusive maniac before he can unleash Armageddon on the world.
The core characters are realistic, multi-dimensional and ever-evolving ; like John Savas, the bitter agent with a quick-temper and deep-seated grudge who is delivered from his hatred by love and unexpected respect and friendship. Rebecca Cohen, the down-to-earth analyst with a sharp analytical mind who's honest and compassionate but vulnerable to her suppressed feelings, and Agent Husaam Jordon, the intuitive, smart, courageous and dedicated CIA agent. The heartless antagonist, a murderer of thousands masks hatred, treachery and cruelty behind an arrogant and charming facade. A madman, armed with a well-trained terrorist organization and unlimited weaponry is terrifying, and intriguing. Each of these personalities and many more add depth and dimension to a nail-biting story that grips the reader from the first page to the last.
This is a hard hitting, no holds barred novel that keeps the reader on the edge of their chair until the end, and I can't wait to read Erec Stebbins' next thriller.
Four stars instead of five for some missed opportunities. I wanted to see more of how Norse mythology shaped the villains' ideology. We never get much of a glimpse into any of their minds, so it's hard to see their motivation as a sense of bounden duty to bring about the end of creation, or anything less prosaic than the simple thirst for revenge. The author could also have done much more with their secret code based on the runic alphabet. They ostensibly speak Old Norse, but their dialogue reads like "Mission critical. Surveillance has been redirected. Sanitize the target zone." It would have added to the mystery and atmosphere if Stebbins had taken his cue from modern Icelandic, which bravely attempts to describe modern concepts using words the Vikings would have known - for example, rendering "ICBM" as "far-flying fiery thing". And once the heroes identify the language, that's as far as it goes - no race against time to crack the code before the next attack, only to be faced with the cryptologist's dilemma: prevent the attack, save dozens of lives and tip off the enemy that their code has been compromised, or let the attack proceed in the hopes that the next piece of intel they get could save thousands?
All the supporting characters in Intel 1 were endearingly drawn, from the heroic Husaam Jordan, who credits his conversion to Islam with saving him from a life on the streets, to the lovable eccentric Angel Lightfoote, reminiscent of Luna Lovegood from "Harry Potter" - ethereal, slightly out of synch with conventional reality, good for some light relief and blessed with an intuition that can supply the missing piece of the puzzle at the critical time. In her case, however, her "intuition" revealed something that most readers of normal acuity would already have seen coming. I expected more from her.
Overall, I'd say that Erec Stebbins did the publishing world a favor by believing in himself and sticking to it until this topsy-turvy version of the traditional thriller could be shared with the world. I hope we'll find that he has blazed the trail for many others!
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