ALPHA by Greg Rucka
Greg Rucka knows how to write an action-packed story filled with interesting characters, and he does it again in his latest book, Alpha. The story is begging to be made into a summer blockbuster movie. Wilsonville (a theme park a lot like Disneyland) is a well-thought out background to the events in the novel. Rucka provides a detailed backstory involving the “characters” at the park and how they all fit together. I’m not sure where he got his information on the people and the restraints of being one of those characters, but I’ve talked to a student who actually did that at one point and Rucka’s information is spot on. Wilsonville came alive in the pages, and the author uses most of those setting in exciting and entertaining ways.
I really like his main character Jad (Jonathan) Bell as well. He’s quiet and a deep thinker as well as a man of action. The relationship he has with his ex-wife and daughter isn’t anything new by any means, but Rucka somehow deepens and enriches this stock relationship.
One of the twists in the story is that Bell’s daughter is deaf. I didn’t expect that and the reader is actually caught up in the middle of the scene of her introduction before realizing what’s actually going on, but Rucka’s writing is so smooth that you don’t really notice until you do, and then the transition is organic. That lack of hearing puts a fine edge on the relationship, showing how it is limited in some ways, and at the same time provides another plot twist later on.
The villains are well done for the most part. Gabriel Fuller’s situation is moving and I found myself wanting to root for him even though I was shown he was a full-blown killer. I loved his insight into what it was like to be the character of Pooch, and I suspect a lot of other actors playing similar roles have the same love/hate relationships with their jobs. However, I still feel mostly in the dark where the Uzbek and his mysterious boss are concerned. Since this is a first book in a series, I figure we’ll get to know more about them later and the curiosity I’m feeling is supposed to be there. But it’s a long time to wait between books.
Rucka’s use of military operations is good too. He’s always been good at bringing a law enforcement agency (Gotham Central, a police department in Batman’s home town) or a spy agency (Queen & Country, an MI6 organization) to life in the comics he’s written, as well as in later novels featuring characters from the latter. The movements of the team and the decisions Bell makes come to life as the story progresses and tightens down the tension considerably.
This book is a great summer read and people who enjoy it are probably going to be waited as anxiously as I am for the next installment.