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Target Deck: (A Deckard Novel) Paperback – December 28, 2012
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The book picks up shortly after the end of Reflexive Fire, which also leads to one of my criticisms, which I will address below. Deckard's Samruk battalion has been devastated by the closing action in Reflexive Fire, and he's in need of cash flow to pay his men, so he goes to Mexico. The story is set in the Mexican drug war, and Jack does a phenomenal job building the scene and describing the ground as it exists now during the narco-insurgency. He involves all the various parties, and rips things from the headlines to give the narrative the authentic flavor. You will come away from the book knowing things about Mexico only those who pay close attention to the war down south have been aware of, along with some new flavor and analysis on the situation.
He arrives and jumps right into the action to conduct a rescue of his employer, and then goes to prosecuting targets (giving the book its name). We see characters from the previous book return (Pat, Kurt, Frank, Nikita), and are introduced to new ones (read the book, it's worth it). The action is non-stop, the pacing is phenomenal, and there is nobody writing right now who has the same way with words of violence that Jack Murphy has. These are men, doing the hard thing, in difficult circumstances, tied together by their belief in an inspiring leader and their willingness to follow him. This is the essence of the modern fighting man, Jack knows this, and he can take the reader there regardless if they are a hardened combat vet or inexperienced civilian.
Much has been made by the author of "how this is two books in one, how the action continues where most books stop." This is why I only give the book four stars, where I gave Reflexive Fire five. If you walk into Barnes & Nobles, or look around Amazon, most stories with an underlying conspiracy (especially those involving military actors) have a plot arc that ends somewhere with nefarious actors in the United States Government. Deckards backstory reveals itself slowly throughout the novels, and we know that he has a prior history with the Central Intelligence Agency. This comes back now, as he needs them to create space for his operation, and they need him to take down a target. This is a unnecessary diversion in the plot, and only has value because the villain used here bounces around until the end of the book. There are scenes written from headlines that are in the book only to reveal the brutality of the cartels, but do not advance the story (specifically the disposal of bodies through acid). But the biggest drag to me was that the conspiracy does not flow through the book. Jack knows how to do it, because it does it better than most in Reflexive Fire, taking just about every major conspiracy theory about one world government/secret societies/mysticism and weaving them together into a compelling story you cannot leave. Here, the conspiracy is an add on ungracefully tacked a top a great story, with actors, dialogue, and plans that do not fit together. He is reaching for the grandeur of the first triumvirate (to include creating a new one based on some real people consumers of modern news will recognize), but falls a bit short.
Jack is a modern author who interacts freely with his fans through his own website (ReflexiveFire.com), as well as SofRep.com, where is an editor. I would also say he is the best writer the site has to offer when it comes to describing things and placing the reader in the action. He is on FaceBook, and sometimes uses Twitter. He often will posts exeprts of upcoming books, and will respond to your comments and questions. This creates a sort of connection that was not possible in previous generations, and he makes use of this better than most. Of course this also allows one to look to far behind the curtain sometimes when things shine through that you may not like about the author, or where you might disagree. Jack is such a good writer that you look past these things to enjoy the final product regardless of everything around it.
The book is available in both paperback and Kindle, with the Kindle version including hyperlinks to Wikipedia for many of the pieces of technology and such. This is another innovative use of technology by the author, even if it is not always mature enough to support his final intent. I read the book on a Kindle Touch, where Wikipedia does not look all that great, and the touch conductivity and response is not all that great. These are separate Kindle issues, but they mean one might not take full advantage of the features.
Overall, this is a book you will want to go back to several times, harmed slightly by the fact that his first book was so amazing, and that the PROMIS series is outstanding. I purchased it as soon as it was available on Amazon, and read it in two sittings because I could not put it down. Since then I have hit up several sections several more times, because the language just speaks to me. Jack Murphy makes me glad I own a Kindle because I can take all his books with me when I travel for work, and I look forward to further entries from him in the PROMIS and Deckard series. You will not regret picking up any of his titles.
And it is an absolute hoot to read as well.....
Deckard starts off a few months after administering justice in Reflexive Fire with a whiplash jump into the chaos in Mexico as it continues to fall apart into tribal disarray. We see him introduce a new tough female character, Samantha, and an integral part of any new diract action group....the lonely hacker (see if you can see the link with Cody and what people think is a mental disorder in todays headlines....).
With a little legal work quickly addressed under direct fire Deckard quickly tears through Mexico adminstering rough justice to very sadistic "humans" in the drug business and finds that there is an evil link back to foul terror groups masquerading as freedom fighters with USG approval and training facilities - and since Deckard and Samruk are men of action, action against evil it will be, with some very interesting allies from both sides of the cold war fight in Central/South America. Target Deck does not disappoint but Samruk needs to replenish - the men are getting worn fast fighting against overwhleming odds.
The author builds upon his own research (and I dare say some of his personal experiences?) to drive to the heart of the brutatility of the modern terrorist and drug cartel to give the reader ample reason to desire total, complete justice. If videos, knives, "stew" and other butchery don't stir something within the readers soul...check your pulse.
Read this one end-to-end and realise that we are seeing the emergence of important works as fiction from this writer - I am certainly glad that Deckard's Target Deck is not clear, because evil never sleeps and men of action need to step in to address it utterly.
If you want action and true justice soak this one in. It is not fluffy, it is reality.
Well Done Jack.
Time for volume 3...
P.S. To boot we get some previews from other great writers in the back pages as a bonus gift!