The Robert Ludlum franchise, the absence of its founder notwithstanding, soldiers on. At the rate at which the Bourne and Covert-One titles, among other Ludlum-influenced works, are being written, it will not be long at all before Ludlum will be (indirectly) responsible for more books written after his passing than during his life. One of the bright spots of this set of circumstances has been the aforementioned Covert-One series, which deals with…well, as one might guess, an agency that operates covertly and that goes where others fear or are unable to tread.
"THE ARES DECISION will keep you up at night, reading, thinking and imagining."
THE ARES DECISION by Kyle Mills is the latest installment and one of the best. It should have the dual effect of sustaining interest in the series and moving Mills onto the must-read list of many. If your boat is floated by thriller novels that are set in the real world and have the ability to scare the pants off you, you will absolutely love this one.
Mills is the son of a former FBI agent, so he knows the world of secrecy in the global workplace, the machinations of politics both in the office and in the world, and the manner in which the lines that separate allies and adversaries can shift quickly and dramatically. He also has an interest in and a grasp of biology and medicine.
So it is that THE ARES DECISION concerns the use of a frightening biological weapon consisting of a parasitic infection. The host beings experience fits of violent insanity, so much so that they develop what appears to be a supernatural strength, which makes them seemingly immune to pain and fear. The parasite manifests itself when a U.S. Special Forces team in Uganda, inserted for the purpose of capturing a ruthless dictator, is attacked and decimated by a group of unarmed and untrained villagers. Covert-One’s Colonel Jon Smith, an Army microbiologist and one of the world’s top investigators in his field, soon discovers that the parasite has had a history of several centuries of alternately manifesting itself and then going dormant, only to reappear. This time, however, it’s different: the parasite is purposely being kept alive by the Ugandan strongman in order to quell dissent from within his country and repel invasion from within.
What is even worse, however, is that the head of Iranian intelligence is attempting to obtain the newly revived parasite from Uganda, in order to unleash it against the West in general and the United States in particular. Further, there are those in the highest offices of US intelligence who want to see the parasite unleashed, so that US citizens will have evidence of the threat they face. When Smith and his team are ambushed and cut off from all support, they find themselves seemingly unable to stop the spread of the parasite. But not everyone in Iran is behind the program to unleash the deadly scourge upon the world, and Smith finds himself with a few unlikely allies, even as some within his own government are aligned against him. As the climax approaches, the President of the United States is going to be faced with a Hobson’s Choice, one that will either set the parasite loose upon the world, or wipe at least one country off the face of the earth.
THE ARES DECISION will keep you up at night, reading, thinking and imagining. If you are obsessed with germs and the like, the topic will drive you absolutely crazy. Mills has really done his homework here, and the accounts of the effect that parasites can have on the behavior of hosts, and the degree of same, are both fascinating and frightening. I can think of no greater compliment than to tell you that portions of the novel made my skin crawl. And I loved every minute of it.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 6, 2011