I am going to confess up front that I had never heard of John Ringo until approximately two weeks ago. A friend --- an "A-class" writer himself --- told me that current and retired special ops guys were raving about a new book called GHOST by John Ringo. So I checked out both the book and the author. Doing the former was much easier than the latter; Ringo's biographical information is deliberately vague, and my guess is that the name he writes under is a pseudonym, a tribute to the iconoclastic outlaw of the western frontier. Ringo, whoever he may be, has written a number of military and science fiction thrillers, and GHOST is the beginning of another new series. This guy not only has the goods, but also the key to the whole store.
If you are troubled by truth, male sexual fantasies, violence, and all of the things that make adventure literature great, you may not find Ringo or his book to your liking. This would be unfortunate because GHOST is a 404-page manual on How The World Works. It begins with a quote from George Orwell that serves simultaneously as an introduction and a warning: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because tough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
GHOST is divided into three parts. The first deals with Mike Harmon, aka Ghost, newly retired from the Navy SEALS but restlessly enrolled in the University of Georgia and stumbling across the abduction of a female student. Interjecting himself into what he initially believes to be an attempted rape, Harmon finds that he has landed in the middle of a terrorist plot, the aim of which is to abduct, torture and horribly execute 50 young American women --- with the proceedings shown to the American people via the Internet. It is Ghost --- and a couple of unexpected assistants --- standing between an army of the evil terrorists on their own turf and a group of attractive young women marked for destruction.
A great deal of Book Two is given over to a somewhat graphic description of what happens when a soldier and two young women are at sea in the tropics for an extended period of time. This EXTREMELY idyllic reverie is interrupted when Harmon is pressed into service to disrupt terrorist plans to smuggle an atomic bomb into North America. Harmon, it should he noted, is neither impervious to bullets nor otherwise indestructible; fortunately, neither is his reprehensible enemy. Graphic and realistic descriptions of violence and sex --- sometimes contemporaneously --- abound. Be forewarned.
Book Three puts Harmon in Europe as he attempts to thwart a terrorist effort to destroy the Pope and France. He engages in a race against time to find a way to disarm an atomic weapon that is seemingly unstoppable. This is by far the most suspenseful of the novel's three sections, so keep that defibrillator at the ready as you'll undoubtedly need it. Book Three is particularly timely, given that as these words are being written, France unfortunately is learning that the cost of capitulation to terrorists is terror.
Be forewarned: Ghost is not your daddy's chivalrous hero. He is quick to tell everyone he encounters that he is not a good guy. This fact is brought into focus, up close and personal, in Book Three, and makes for uncomfortable, though realistic, reading. But the realism does not end when the mission is over. And the terrorists are not domestic Christians, or whites, or blacks, or Asians. GHOST is real-world stuff. This may make some readers uncomfortable, but those who prefer their literature unsanitized will appreciate Ringo's ability and intestinal fortitude for telling it like it is.
And if all of this wasn't enough, there's a great CD included as a reading soundtrack. What more can you ask for? Recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011