Sometimes less is more.
Apparently, Eric Van Lustbader doesn’t believe that because his latest non-Jason Bourne thriller, Any Minute Now, has more plot threads than an Egyptian cotton bed sheet. Unlike the bed sheet, though, this leads to a particularly uncomfortable narrative that even veteran readers who are experienced in supernatural thrillers will struggle to keep up with.
The book is (mostly) centered around Red Rover, a private security firm that’s billed as handling “blacker than black ops.” The bulk of their work comes from the NSA, who hires them through a subcontractor to handle their most dangerous missions.
Led by Greg Whitman, their veteran team leader, Red Rover heads to Pakistan in search of a man named Seiran el-Habib. Instead, they walk into an ambush and, after suffering one casualty and numerous injuries, Whitman’s superiors abort the mission. Whitman, however, decides to disobey orders and forge ahead.
To fill the void of the fallen team member, Whitman turns to his old fling, Charlie Daou, a weapons expert who makes her own custom boom-sticks. Playing up the supernatural theme at work here, Daou’s weapons are unique in that they’re undetectable, even to scanners.
Unbeknownst to Whitman, Luther St. Vincent, one of the NSA’s top dogs, is heading up an experimental operation to chemically engineer and weaponize soldiers. Doing so requires doctors to play mad scientist with the soldier’s brains, which, as you might imagine, doesn’t exactly turn out to be a good thing.
The conspiracies are deeper than that, though, as everyone seems to be connected in one way or another to a shadowy, mysterious character called the Preacher. Then, to top it all off, it turns out there’s another player at work here, a group called the Alchemists, who make all other secret societies look like stuffed teddy bears.
Everything is thrown together in what I’m sure was designed to be a riveting, supernatural action-drama or suspense novel. Instead, Van Lustbader overused a few ingredients and the end result reads more like a randomly tossed together jambalaya that is sure to leave readers confused and wondering what they just read.
As hard as this book was to get through at times, there are bits and pieces of positive seeds sewn throughout. The characters are all interesting and unique, and I liked their interaction with one another. If nothing else, Van Lustbader did come up with an original story, even if it did miss its mark.
If this is the start to a new series, I’d like to see the next book’s plot simplified, with a clear direction that’s not so hard to follow.
I wanted to like this book, honestly, I really did. But things seemed off from the very beginning. First of all, I just couldn’t buy into this “blacker than black ops” group of super-soldiers calling themselves “Red Rover.” Every time I read those words together I think of the silly playground game we used to play in elementary school.
Red Rover, Red Rover, send Jason Bourne right over!
I like Van Lustbader’s work, for the most part, and really admire what he’s done with Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. I enjoyed this year’s The Bourne Enigma and was excited about this book from the moment I heard about it. If only it would have lived up to the hype.
I’ve got nothing against supernatural stories. Bring on the weird stuff, I can handle it! This was just too much. I think Van Lustbader had some genuinely unique plot ideas but struggled to put them all together in a cohesive way that made sense to the reader. He’s an incredibly talented writer, so I wouldn’t bet against him turning this into a lucrative franchise in the future, I just hope he trims more of the fat next time.
If you can read this book and honestly keep it all straight in your head, you deserve a pat on the back. For the rest of us mere mortals, prepare for almost four-hundred pages of huh? as you attempt to make it through this book.
Author: Eric Van Lustbader
Pages: 367 (Hardcover)
Release Date: August 16, 2016 (Order now!)