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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"The Athena Project" by Brad Thor (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order The Athena Project from Amazon Here
Read a Recent Interview with Brad Thor on the Athena Project Here

Brad Thor is the author of nine previous novels featuring a series character. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California wherein he did his degree in creative writing, film and television production. He was also the producer and host of the “Traveling Lite” TV series. He was also invited to be a member as a member of the Department of Homeland Security's Analytic Red Cell Program which is a think tank initiative which tries to divine all future methods of attack on the United States, His previous books have featured on the New York Times bestsellers list. He has also appeared as an analyst/pundit for various TV channels.

CLASSIFICATION/FORMAT/INFO: The Athena Project is 322 pages long divided over sixty numbered chapters, with a Prologue. Narration is set in the third person perspective and features many characters namely Gretchen Casey, Megan Rhodes, Vicki Suffolk, Ben Matthews, Alex Cooper and many others. The Athena Project is the first volume in a new series which will feature the Athena team members. This book can be read as a standalone novel, but The Athena Team was first introduced in this year’s Scot Harvath book called “Foreign Influence” and the plot in this book has some vital connection to that book as well.

November 23, 2010 marked the North American Hardcover and trade paperback publication of The Athena Project via Atria Books.

The Athena Project is set in various locations in Europe and across the American continents.

ANALYSIS: I have encountered Brad Thor's books in the past. My experiences with his works was a bit of a mixed bag. Some I thought were good, some average and some not-so-good ones.
Throughout his works Thor has established a series character by the name of Scot Haryath who is an ex-navy seal. The various books cataloged his adventures, pitfalls and overall geo-political world scenario. The Athena Project was what I believed to be a nice departure from Thor's previous signature style plots, however I was to be proven wrong on that count.

Please note that I will be doing a bit of an overview of this year's release Foreign Influence as well because of its close link the The Athena Project.

Foreign Influence starts with Scot’s fre-nemy “The Troll” being attacked and then framed for a terrorist attack. This leads Scot to meet with the Troll and then have to figure out why he was being framed and also make sense of certain other things which have happened previously. On a parallel storyline John Vaughn a cop moonlighting as a detective takes on a case which involves tracking down a hit-and –run driver. Both plots race along as the reader will try to figure out their point of convergence which comes at a predictable point. Along the former plot thread, Scot Harvath is assisted by the Athena Team members at a crucial point in his mission but not without some losses to themselves as well. Foreign Influence was a good thriller which began a very enticing plot arc and the book ends on a nice cliffhanger as well which begets the question as to how much of the story would be carried forward in the The Athena Project which is a spin-off series of the main Scot Harvath books.

The Athena Project begins with a prologue set in WWII and gives us a small precursor to the idea which is behind the team’s formation. The first chapter shows us the starting point of the plot of this book and from the second chapter we are re-introduced to the four heroic gals who are a part of a covert group of female athletes who have been selected for some serious black-ops work. Megan Rhodes, Alex Cooper, Gretchen Casey and Julie Ericsson are the members of this group who come from differing backgrounds however they share a common trait of being specialized athletes and who have successfully negotiated the course of becoming a part of the ATHENA group. Their mission is to nab Nino Bianchi who helped cause some of the events in Foreign Influence. Their mission is to take him and find the next link which will aid Scot Harvath in his mission as well [Scot also makes a cameo in this book]. Once their mission is over the Athena members are instantaneously ordered to partake in another mission whose roots lie in Nazi experiments and are therefore have to go to the Czech Republic to secure a few objects. This however turns out to be a trap and the girls have to think as they run and regroup.

On a yet different plotline is the clandestine love story of Ben Matthews and Vicki Suffolk though both seem highly motivated in each other; their reasons for doing so are veiled partly from the reader. This plotline is set in Denver, Colorado and has to do with a certain query regarding the Denver International airport.

Brad Thor has set enough action, political and historical intrigue in this tale to make the reader feel as if they are really reading a page turner. Along with all the political and historical intrigue there is enough technological applications which the plot hinges upon and which has to be found and countered otherwise it could have catastrophic complications. This book is very much within the range demonstrated by Brad Thor in his previous books and is an exciting direction taken by the author whose primary series might have gotten a bit stagnant.

With this year’s Foreign Influence and Athena Project, Thor has written some real winners and his fans will do very well to read both books back to back as this adds on to the reading experience envisioned by Thor.

Now onto the drawbacks of this book, primarily The Athena Project is very action-heavy and there is very little focus upon the character development aspect of the novel. Each character is very black or white and not overly three dimensional. Readers are presenting with their reasons for doing whatever they are doing and occasionally the heroes flirt with the gray nature of their jobs by having to debate about doing activities that might cross the line from good to bad. However, there isn't much development beyond that.

A second drawback is that there isn't much to differentiate the four characters from each other despite the fact that they were given different backgrounds. They often seem to be clones of each other and not much is given to separate them from each other This might be a bit unfair on my part as this is the first book in a series and there might be more surprises planned in the future books but in this book the plot and characters are a bit cliché ridden and little else is done to dispel that from the reader’s minds.

CONCLUSION: In the end I would say I enjoyed the premise and this action packed novel, however it didn’t entice me as much as I thought it would. I will be checking out next year’s dual offering of Scot Harvath and the Athena gals as Brad seems to have a grand climax planned and based on this indications it does seem to be a great thriller read.


Bob said...

Awesome Book. I'll have to check that one out, thank you so much.

The Reader said...

Thanks Bob for your comment, if you do plan on reading this book, I would request you to read "Foreign Influence" by the same author first, as the plot elements are partially based on that book.


Anonymous said...

I agree. Waste of time.

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