Thursday, June 19, 2014

Alpha by Greg Rucka

Title: Alpha
Author: Greg Rucka
Publisher: Little Brown
Rating: WARTY!

Alpha is written by Greg Rucka who has an article on strong female characters, but you won't find any strong female characters here. All the females are appendages to the men, because this is a macho military man kind of a novel. After I read this, I decided that I probably had to visit the improbable characters populating his comic books to find out what he thinks a strong female character should be, and I wasn't impressed there, either.

This novel reads like a rip-off of a movie I saw some time ago about the take-over of a theme park by thieves or terrorists, but I cannot for the life of me recall its name. I guess it wasn't that great, huh?! I've searched on Amazon, on Netflix, and on the Internet, including IMDB, but I've failed to dig up the name of the movie I saw, and IMDB doesn't identify Rucka as the writer of such a movie or as a movie based on anything he wrote.

In this take, a terrorist threat aimed at the fictional Wilsonville theme park a thinly disguised Disney knock off, comes to the attention of government agencies, so Jad Bell, a master sergeant in some special forces outfit or other, is recruited as deputy safety director. Another of his team is working as a security employee. There is a third person, a CIA operative, also working there, but the park's management has no idea that it's a target, nor that there are undercover operatives implanted at the park.

When the terror does strike, it's in the form of a couple of dozen guys who set up a dirty bomb. It turns out they were hired by a US government politician who wanted to literally scare-up funds for defense, but the terrorists take that and run with it, and then demand that this same guy pay them over again what he already paid, otherwise they really will detonate this bomb. It's up to Bell and his team to rescue the hostages, take out the terrorists and defuse the bomb. In short, your standard macho bullshit.

The complication is that Bell's wife is in the park with his deaf daughter, taking a tour which magically happened to be on this self-same day, of course. The daughter, Anthea, does seem to be a strong woman, but she's marginalized, Bell's ex wife (it's always the ex in these stories, isn't it?) is a complete moron. In the first part of the novel, Bell pretty much outright begs her not to visit the park, but he can't tell her exactly why, and so this dip-shit chooses to completely ignore the advice of her terrorist-expert husband. Later in the story, she bitches him out about getting her into this and putting her daughter at risk! What a frickin' numb-skull!

Generally this novel is well-written and I certainly had no trouble maintaining interest in it, but once in a while there was a "Wait, what?" moment. At one point, Rucka writes, "...judders to a sudden, sharp stop." I'm not sure that makes sense. Judders is a word, although it's not one I like. The problem as I see it is that "judders" implies at least a small amount of time for said juddering to happen, which seems to be at odds with the "sudden, sharp stop" portion of the sentence. Maybe it's just me, but I would never have written that. It just sounds too weird to me.

I have no idea, even having read this novel, what the 'Alpha' title is all about, unless it describes the guy on the cover holding his gun like it's a loaded automatic metal dick....

So overall this was not quite a disaster, but neither was it anything memorable, new, inventive, or original and, as I said, it's strongly reminiscent, if not a rip-off, of that movie. So in short, I can't rate this as a worthy read. Others have done far more with less.