Tag Archives: technological thriller

ISIS vs the Catholic Church: a Thriller

The Canonical Order, by T. R. Kurtz. 318 pages. Trade paperback $9.99. Kindle E-book $4.99.

This supercharged techno-spy thriller has it all. First of all, it has an intriguing premise. Kurtz imagines that the Catholic Church has developed a first-class intelligence operation with resources comparable to those of the superpowers. The Canonical Order is that impressive force, and it is presented as a late incarnation of the ancient Knights of Malta. Kurtz’s protagonist, Chad Stryker, is a highly experienced and outlandishly skilled former CIA agent who now works with the Canonical Order and has mastered its amazing resources. He is a leader of Black Swan, its covert action arm.

Why would the Vatican need such a warlike entity? Because a radical Islamist supergroup, led by a pair of Chechen brothers loyal to the Islamic State, has plans to destroy the Catholic Church and, by extension, all of Christianity.

Indeed, the Pope has been shot and is severely wounded.

What is amazing is the author’s ability to make his premise seem plausible. He has crafted a dynamic, suspenseful tale in which all of the many and often unexpected details fit together.

Stryker’s mission seems motivated in part by his need to redeem himself for any missteps he might have taken during the later stages of his wife’s death from a rare form of cancer. The portrait of the lovers’ relationship is powerfully drawn, and though Jennifer must always be offstage, she is as well-developed as any of the book’s many important characters.

Kurtz

Novices in the field of espionage and security countermeasures won’t know if Kurtz’s descriptions of the Order’s tools are accurate or not. However, they sure are appetizing. Devices are programmed to guide, respond to, and refine the parameters of the task at hand. Artificial intelligence seems to be blended with human assessments. Stryker is assisted by something called the “e-Mission Manager” that is as important as his Canonical Order human associates: namely, D’Orio, Moldovan, and the brains-and-beauty-blessed Sonia Navarre.  Another resource is curiously named MILEAGE.

However, as the mission progresses, it becomes clear that the outcomes are not what was hoped for or expected. Some tools have been improperly calibrated or otherwise compromised.

Dedicated readers will find out by whom and why.

Chad Stryker’s action tools include weaponized gear of all kinds. He has outfits that disguise and protect him, while hiding an array of immediately accessible, personal armaments. One imagines a world at techno-war in which new kinds of haberdashery adorn the compatible, superbly-trained agent.

Well-chosen bible passages connect chapter titles with the moral and “end-of-world” motifs of the action.

Kurtz is adept at describing intriguing settings and putting readers on the spot of the action. A long sequence set in Dubai engagingly establishes the interplay of character and place. Scenes in Kurdistan and elsewhere are similarly effective.

T. R Kurtz’s first novel has the makings of a best-seller, and its inventive imagery could inspire a movie.

Where did all this potentially history-changing imagining come from? . . . .

The full article, with  capsule profile and interview in the May-June 2019 Ft. Myers Magazine, has the answers.  You can read them by clicking here: CanonicalOrder

 

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Techno-thriller finds assassin troubled by shadowy double

Assassin’s Run, by Ward Larsen. Forge. 368 pages. Hardcover $26.99.

This is the fifth of Mr. Larsen’s David Slaton Novels, and it is an amazingly ambitious addition to an ambitious series. A former Mossad operative, Slaton finds himself in a situation in which all fingers point toward him when a series of skillful, high-tech assassinations take place. Now trying to live a no-profile domestic life in order to protect his wife and young son, Slayton knows that he must track down the killer whose efforts are endangering his loved ones and his desire for a tranquil family life.  

He finds himself in the middle of a complex adjustment of the world’s strategic order.

The victims of the unknown assassin are Russian oligarchs who are killed in various settings, each slain by a single bullet that has traveled what seems to be an impossibly long distance. The scenes that reveal how Slaton discovers the exotic technology that his double has been armed with and mastered set an extremely high standard. What Slaton discovers is a large caliber guided bullet that can be programmed and adjusted in a way that parallels the technology of a guided missile.

Larsen

Slaton is approached by CIA agent Anna Sorensen who engages him in an effort to find out why – and by whom – the super-wealthy associates of Russia’s government leader, Petrov, are being threatened.

A weighty handful of additional plot strands slowly become intertwined with the initial action. One involves the private, secretive retooling of retired Russian jet fighters (MiGs) as drones. Another concerns the high-security annual assembly of the extended Saudi royal family. Yet another strand details the convergent mission of three freighters owned by a private Russian combine. We meet Russian military officials, engineers, ship’s captains, and a wide variety of functionaries necessary to populated and sustain the overall plot.

We also, standing behind the characters or the narrator and looking over their shoulders, perceive fascinating vistas. Assassin’s Run is quite a travelogue, taking us to vividly described scenes in Capri, Vieste, Sebastopol, Amalfi, and Rome. We also visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virgina; the Kremlin in Moscow; Davos, Switzerland; Marrakesh, Morocco; and a collection of other locations. Some visits provide extended views, others a snapshot. The settings feel authoritatively written, but one yearns for a map. . . .

  • To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 7, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 8 Bonita Springs edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Assassin’s Run

Soon in other local editions. 

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Experiment produces a new kind of technologically-augmented human

Cutting Edge, by Ward Larsen. Forge Books. 332 pages. Hardcover $25.99. 

This futuristic thriller has everything going for it: a great premise, suspenseful plotting, vivid sensory detail, fine characters, and a highly engaging narrative style. The possible future it explores seems just over the horizon of today’s digital and medical technologies. Young, handsome Trey DeBolt works as Coast Guard rescue swimmer in Alaska. He survives a helicopter crash only to find out he has been declared dead. And he is not the man he used to be.

He is much, much more.

Once recovering consciousness, Trey finds himself in a remote cabin along the Maine cost under the supervision of a nurse. Slowly, as he recovers physically, he discovers that he has special abilities that will take him a while to understand and control. It will take him even longer to discover why he has them and what his reincarnation means.

In the meantime, the nurse is assassinated, and her cabin is blown up.

Trey has been part of a clandestine, perhaps illegal, government experiment that wasn’t even supposed to succeed. He has been rewired by a mad genius doctor and put under the direction of a renegade army general. He is now an important component in the wired and wireless world through which data flows. If the title hadn’t been taken some years back for a Michael Crichton novel and the movie based on it, he could be Terminal Man. Indeed, the two novels have more than a little in common regarding new technologies and the battle for control over them.

It’s enough that Trey is Data-man. He can tap into any source of digital information, finding what he needs to solve any problem. He sends out a question, and – sometimes with a bit of delay – he will receive answers. The receiving instrument for Trey’s digital processing is a tiny screen imbedded in his eye that allows him to scan images and text from almost any source. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 14, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 15 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly- Cutting Edge

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A towering achievement in the techno-thriller genre with a grim political vision

Tower Down, by David Hagberg. Forge. 320 pages.  Hardcover $25.99.

Book 21 in the Kirk McGarvey novel series is, among other things, a story about super-luxury real estate, the investment strategies of the super-rich, and the enormous vanity and sense of privilege that infects those who have virtually unlimited wealth. These are people whose goal is to invest their money in whatever will bring them more money. They interact with one another in a closed world, vying for seats at the parties where you meet those who can get you on the lists for the upcoming super-deals. 

Mr. Hagberg brings us a post 9/11 world in which the same American longing for the monumental that motivated radical Islam’s destruction of U.S.  symbols of superiority (exceptionalism?) is about to be repeated.

Manhattan is dotted with “pencil towers,” enormously high, narrow buildings whose huge residential compartments demand enormous prices and whose owners are literally and figuratively on top of the world. Vulnerable to winds, the towers are kept in balance by colossal counterweights – “tuned mass dampers” – that adjust to the force of the winds that would otherwise lead to the towers’ collapse.

The main developer of these towers, like his engineers and buyers, is susceptible to the technological vanity that has proven misguided in the past.

A freelance madman, code-named Al-Nassr, “the Eagle,” masterminds the collapse of one of these towers at 87th Street. Fortunately, few of the units had been sold and occupied. Still, hundreds of people are killed both inside and outside of the building. It was 9/11 revisited without the need for airplanes.

Hagberg

Or it would be if a twin tower were to be brought down. And that second step is in the works.  The target tower would collapse onto the United Nations complex. Great symbolism, eh?

Series hero Kirk McGarvey, a former CIA director (and assassin), is once again engaged to discover the details of the plot and undermine it. His theory, shared by just about no one, is that the Saudis (or perhaps one Saudi) is behind it. The purpose of the destruction is to have another attack on the U.S.  that can readily be blamed on ISIS, the main threat to Saudi Arabia’s stability. By this ruse, the Saudi schemers hope to motivate the U.S. to vastly increase its military operations against ISIS.

McGarvey’s (“Mac’s”) view is shared only by two people: his beautiful CIA operative love interest – Pete Boylan –  and Otto Rencke, a good friend who is an unusual techno-genius. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the June 28, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 29 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Tower Down

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Don’t think it can’t happen

Zero Day: China’s Cyber Wars, by T. L. Williams. First Coast Publishers. 350 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

This fascinating techno-thriller grows out of the reality of nonstop cyberwar that, while largely invisible, is constantly going on all around us. Not only do nations spy on one another by hacking computers, in both the public and private sectors of enemies and friends, bandit freelancers are also at work. National infrastructures are vulnerable. What’s to keep major electronic grids safe from cyber attack? 

T. L. Williams imagines a situation in which China devotes its computer resources to bringing down the U. S financial system and thereby collapsing confidence in the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This outcome would be a giant step toward China surpassing the U. S. as the world’s sole or dominant superpower.

Cyberwars have complex offensive and defensive elements, and Mr. Williams portrays the technological strategies and tactics in fascinating detail. He brings us to the highest level of the U. S. security establishment and shows the bureaucratic workings, allowing readers to eavesdrop on the decision-making conversations of the key players. He also takes us into their private thoughts.

The catalytic moment is the discovery of a communication from a middle-rank Chinese technocrat who is at once in charge of a Chinese offensive and is motivated to “come over” to the American side. Someone needs to be selected who has the experience and skills to be Li’s American handler. Astonishingly, this person is Logan Alexander, the central character in this author’s earlier novels: “Unit 400: The Assassins” and “Cooper’s Revenge.”

The plot progresses through a Tom Clancy-like bombardment of technological detail, a soup bowl full of acronyms for government agencies (both American and Chinese), the shared expertise of U. S. cyberwar specialists, and the physical movements of the key players.

Williams

More than most novels with China settings, this one takes us not only to familiar places like Hong Kong, but also to far less known areas of that fascinating country. Readers also spend time in Washington DC and environs, Thailand, New England, and elsewhere. In each of these settings, Mr. Williams portrayss terrain, neighborhoods, individual buildings, offices, residences, and laboratories with vivid authority. He also details transportation systems and communications systems with great skill. . . .

 

 

 

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 29, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 30 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Zero Day

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This technological thriller is a fun treat not to be missed

Assassin’s Silence, by Ward Larsen. Forge. 400 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

Reading this book was almost too much fun. There is so much pleasure to be had in the appreciation of a piece of writing that reaches such a high peak of control over its many interlocking fragments. Mr. Larsen’s new technological thriller, the third installment of his David Slaton Series, is a masterful piece of plot construction and of balancing what is to be revealed and what withheld. Jammer Davis, the protagonist of another Larsen series, makes a delightful appearance, guiding the decisions of security agency heads who can barely tolerate Jammer’s disdain for protocol. ASSASSIN'SSILENCECOVER

Strange things are happening in Malta. David Slaton, an ex-Mossad assassin thought to be dead in order to protect his wife and son, is finding trouble. He finds himself encountering and eliminating the members of a team put together for the purpose of implementing a world-threatening terrorist action. But some of them find him first!

Meanwhile, in Brazil, a large, long out of use transport plane, an MD-10, has been sought, purchased, and secretly outfitted for a special mission – perhaps a one-time mission. It is holding in its enormous cargo tanks a huge quantity of radioactive material. And it is headed to the Middle East.

Larsen

Larsen

Ward Larsen — by shifting perspectives, locations, and expectations – keeps the reader guessing. Each new revelation about the plane’s mission, the terrorists’ motives, the execution plan, the characters’ responsibilities, and the range of technological capabilities ups the suspense while raising new questions.

In Langley, Virginia, a CIA team is trying to put the pieces together so that disaster can be forestalled and U. S. interests protected. Who lives in Virginia? David Slaton’s wife Christine and their young son. Who is involved in the CIA investigation? Jammer Davis’s sometime girlfriend, special agent Sorensen. Jammer’s slow burn through the thick layer of bureaucracy and professional turf-guarding is a treat not to be missed. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 6, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 7 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Assassin’s Silence

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