I know you're pressed for time. Accordingly, I'm going to give you
the condensed version, if you will, of my review of ACID TEST. The
long version shall follow.
The condensed version: ACID TEST kicks high octane butt.
The long version:
Upon a recent excursion to the local 30-plex, my wife, myself, and
our three-year-old daughter were confronted with a series of
choices. I forget what my wife wanted to see; it wasn't what I was
interested in, which were films baring such names as The
Score, Planet of the Apes, and Jurassic Park III.
We didn't have any decision stress, though. We were there to see
Cats and Dogs, which had enough explosions and karate in it
to keep me reasonably entertained --- because that's what guys like
in a movie: explosions and karate. And one guy who makes sure that
we get our quota is Ross LaManna.
LaManna wrote the script for Rush Hour. LaManna has also
done uncredited rewrite work on such films as Cliffhanger
and Star Trek: First Contact. Rewriters are brought in only
when the situation on a script has reached truly messed up status.
LaManna, though uncredited in this capacity, has pulled more
Hollywood fat out of the fire than a Vine Street McDonald's grill
cook with a 20 year pin. It accordingly stands to reason that, if
he decided to put keyboard to cursor for a novel, you wouldn't be
any more able to stop reading the book than you would be able to
stop watching one of his movies.
And here I sit, bleary-eyed after reading ACID TEST, to tell you
that's true. LaManna wrote ACID TEST on a large page; he covers a
lot of territory with more confidence than a lot of novelists with
more experience. ACID TEST has it all: an Eurasian villain who is a
David Coverdale look-alike and who, with Ghengis Kahn as a role
model, is bent on conquering the world; a can-do US Intelligence
agent who bucks the system to stop him; and all sorts of wonderful
high-tech gadgets and weaponry with enough bells and whistles to
supply a three mile long Hare Krishna march.
Batu Khan is the would-be Ghengis, and he's not insane. He's
charismatic, brilliant and has a lust for power and territory that
won't quit. He also has super-soldiers under his command who seem
to be impervious to anything short of brainsplatter and who are 150
per cent loyal to him. Matt Wilder, the intelligence agent, has a
rough encounter of the third kind with one of these soldiers in
Australia and soon links his encounter with some bizarre episodes
in the United States. Seemingly unrelated, ordinary citizens go
berserk without warning, exhibiting superhuman strength, and often
must be killed in order to be stopped. When a good friend of
Wilder's experiences one of these episodes, Wilder begins to
investigate. His queries unearth a pattern that reveals a link
between the soldier, the incidents, and Batu Khan.
Khan's troops, meanwhile, are on the move, invading and conquering
Soviet Georgia and Ukraine in a matter of hours. Burton Marsh, the
no-nonsense President of the United States, is taking a hard line
against Khan. Wilder, however, soon discovers that an episode in
Marsh's past may result in the United States being held hostage and
helpless to Khan's forces as the country is faced with an attack on
two fronts: one from across the sea, and one from within the very
boundaries of the nation's capital.
LaManna has an absolute winner with ACID TEST. While Khan is a
perfect villain to hiss at, one can only admire, albeit
begrudgingly, the brilliancy of his plan; which, of course, LaManna
created. There are also, on a smaller scale, any number of
brilliant little vignettes, which are positively heart-stopping in
their execution. If I had been watching the spacewalk described in
ACID TEST in a movie I would have stuck my head under the seat and
instructed my three-year-old to "tell Daddy when it's over." I hope
that LaManna sees fit to write more novels. Based on ACID TEST, I'd
be willing to read his grocery list.
And one more thing. I think that LaManna very cleverly inserts
oblique references to every movie he has ever scripted into ACID
TEST. Read it and see how many you spot.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 20, 2011