Warriors: An Alex Hawke Novel
If you are a fan of action/adventure novels, you simply must have Ted Bell’s books on your first-read list. Bell’s Alex Hawke has been called the heir to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. It is an appropriate observation, though Hawke is a bit more genteel and reserved than his iconic ancestor, so to speak. Hawke’s quiet confidence (it’s not bragging if it’s true), capable demeanor and access to gadgetry, 21st-century-style, make such comparisons doubly apt, and perhaps nowhere more so than in WARRIORS, the latest installment in the series and one of the best to date.
Bell doesn’t do anything by halves. The reader isn’t a quarter of the way through WARRIORS before the world balance of power is quietly and secretly turned upside down; a leading world figure is the target of two assassination attempts; Hawke escapes from imprisonment at sea in an extremely dramatic fashion; and a commemorative ceremony in Washington, D.C. is interrupted in a way that is unforgettable. The individual directly or indirectly behind all of these events is General Sun-Yat Moon. The General and Hawke are mutually mortal enemies, and the General has a plan that, if successful, will enable him to take over the seat of government in China and from there transform his native country into the world’s sole superpower.
"Bell’s pacing is exquisitely on the mark, so the pages simply fly by without sacrificing narrative force."
Moon’s first step is to kidnap Bill Chase, a world-famous weapons scientist, and his family off the street in Washington, D.C. He has been holding Chase at a top-secret Chinese facility while keeping his wife and two children in a North Korean slave labor camp for five years. He has offered Chase a trade-off: design weapons for the Chinese, and Chase’s wife and children will remain alive. The weapons have been designed and are in place, ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice. The United States has no inkling of what is to take place until it’s almost too late.
Hawke has been targeted as well by one of Moon’s minions, who may well prove to be more dangerous than Moon himself. Hawke is seriously distracted, for sure, but is more angered than anything else, particularly when his beloved son Alexei is targeted. It ultimately gives Hawke more focus when intelligence reveals Moon’s dastardly plans and the methods he has used --- kidnapping and extortion --- to develop them. He devises a dangerous two-step plan to bring Moon’s mad plot to a half: rescue Chase’s family from the horrors of the prison camp where they have been held, then swoop in and extricate Chase from the high-security Chinese facility, bringing Moon’s plan to a halt in the process. The odds don’t seem impossible; they are impossible. Bet on Hawke.
Hawke is a world beater, and it takes a big book to get everything in. WARRIORS doesn’t read like a long book at all. Bell’s pacing is exquisitely on the mark, so the pages simply fly by without sacrificing narrative force. Does it require an occasional suspension of disbelief? You bet; it’s so exciting, however, that you’ll hardly notice. And even when everyone pauses momentarily to catch their collective breath, you’ll still hear a doomsday clock ticking between the lines. Throw in a very satisfying climax that leaves just enough hanging to leave you wanting more, and you have Bell’s latest winner, waiting and begging to be read.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 10, 2014