Pulse (A Chess Team Adventure book 1) by Jeremy Robinson (book review).
This is a Chess Team adventure novel, a sort of cutting edge US military sci-fi and ancient Greek mythology mash-up. Those readers who play chess can rest easy and stand down as they won’t be called up for active duty by Uncle Sam. The Chess Team refers to the elite, best-of the-best US Special Forces in the black ops Delta Unit who all have codenames based on chess pieces. ‘Pulse’ is the first in what has become a series of Chess Team/Jack Siglar novels. ‘Who is Jack Siglar?’ I hear you cry. He’s the leader, codename ‘King’, of the Delta unit, but I’m getting ahead of myself here as we don’t meet up with him until chapter 3.
To help set the context, there’s a prologue with the action taking place in Nazca, Peru and dated at 454BC. A giant of a man with strange magical powers marches into the arid desert carrying a sack. He is followed by the townspeople who have followed him since he came ashore near their village. Slowly, they all drop away leaving only the few bravest and strongest men to help him bury his sack before he marches east and back to the coast.
Jumping forward in time to 2006 but staying in Peru, Todd Maddox arrives for a job interview with Richard Ridley, the very wealthy owner of Manifold. Maddox’s skills as a research scientist specialising in regeneration are exactly what Ridley is looking for, as he’s after an eternal life. Archaeologist George Pierce is another principle character with a special interest in ancient Greek mythology as he’s heavily embroiled in the excavation of a shipwreck that may just be the Argo. This could be the legendary ship of Jason and the Argonauts, but before he can complete his work, he’s drawn away to Peru by an old friend. It seems they have found a stone in the Nazca engraved with ancient Greek text. Realising the importance of the find and wanting to protect it from tomb raiders, he calls up his friend Jack Siglar to provide a bit of protection.
Unfortunately, Manifold are a step ahead of Siglar and not only raid the tomb but make off with his good friend Pierce. Narrowly escaping with his life and being deeply insulted at having his friend kidnapped on his watch, Siglar calls in the rest of Delta Squad while setting off by himself to rescue Pierce. It’s during this one man rescue attempt that Siglar discovers a rather unpleasant and very dangerous fact, Manifold has been experimenting with re-generation technology on animals. The dangerous bit is that the treatment turns the animal into blood-crazed killing machines that are very, very hard to kill. Siglar narrowly avoids being killed again by the arrival of the rest of the Chess Team.
The remainder of the novel deals firstly with Siglar’s attempt to rescue his friend and subsequently with the US governments attempts to stop Manifold. As Ridley and Maddox get nearer and nearer, their dream of everlasting life with full regeneration of damaged body parts, their testing becomes more and more extreme. The Chess Team, with the help of a Manifold insider, discover that Ridley is also prepared to sell the discovery to the highest bidders. The thought of almost indestructible terrorists or enemy fighters provides the added incentive for the US military to put a stop to Manifold’s activities.
‘Pulse’ is a good mix of near future military technology and ancient Greek mythology to bring about an explosive situation. While the Chess Team may be the best-of-the-best and equipped with the best the US military have, they keep facing situations where they are out-gunned and out-smarted. It certainly makes for an interesting read, bearing in mind there would be no excitement if the Chess Team were able to just walk in after a five minute one-sided fire-fight. There is one thing which struck me as being so far from the norm that it stuck out like a sore thumb. There has been an enemy engagement in which one of the Chess Team was briefly captured. The engagement also resulted in the deaths of US military personnel and significant damage to rather new and shiny, not to mention expensive, military hardware. However, there is no debriefing of the Chess Team. They are simply shipped off to the next engagement and I just can’t see that happening.
I’m probably nit-picking as ‘Pulse’ is a good military action thriller with a clever plot. I like the Greek mythology aspect which gives a new twist on what may well be current medical research. Overall, I enjoyed the novel, although I’m old enough to see similarities with ‘The A Team’.
(pub: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. 324 page hardback. Price: $24.95 (US) $31.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-312-54028-9)
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