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These are the chronicles of a book addict, a photo junkie, and an aspiring author, rewriting the very fabric of reality one page (and one snapshot) at a time. From the strange to the unusual; the abandoned to the abnormal; the haunted to the historic; the supernatural to the surreal; the forests of dark fantasy, the cemeteries of gothic horror, and the post-apocalyptic ruins of science fiction are the landscapes of my imagination.
I think the thing I enjoy most about Ted Bell's Alex Hawke novels is the sense of balance. It's there in the characters, the emotions, the plot threads, and the pacing. If you're like me, you come for the action and the adventure, but it's all the other elements that keep you reading each page closely, rather than just skimming head for the next 'big' moment.
With Warriors we get more of that deliberately careful balance. Family (both intimate and extended) plays a significant role this time out. It begins with a family dinner, a birthday present, and a roadside abduction of Bill Chase, his wife, and their two children. Captured by the Chinese, Bill is tortured and tormented, forced to put his military genius to work against the Western world for the sake of his family. It continues with the relationships between Alex and his son, as well as between father, son, and Nell, the governess from Scotland Yard. There are equal doses or sorrow and happiness there, mixed in with the difficult realities of protecting a child who presents a prime opportunity for striking at Alex himself. It even extends to the villains of the piece, General Sun-Yat Moon and his daughters (Jet, Li, and Chyna), all of whom have a complicated relationship with Alex. Theirs are relationships of love and hate, emotions powerful enough to push the world to the brink of nuclear war.
With so much raw humanity to the novel, it's quite a surprise to find the technological aspects just as strong. There's a highly advance fighter jet designed to deliver Alex to his Chinese contact, and a pair of equally advanced missiles designed to prevent him from making that meet. There's an entirely new class of submarine here, far more dangerous and more chilling than anything fans have read before. The first appearance of one off the shore of the continental USA is almost as chilling as the reconnaissance team's descent below the waterline. There are extremely sophisticated drone planes, unmanned but well-armed, with a graveside attack that rivals just about anything else within the genre. By contrast, the devices of torture are decidedly old school - ancient in a few cases - but no less effective.
Again, in terms of plotting, balance is everything. While Alex Hawke is highly reminiscent of a more human sort of James Bond, this is not a book that's all about him. In fact, his acts of heroism are probably just under half the novel. His old friend, Chief Inspector Ambrose Congreve, gets a great deal of time in the spotlight here, with a pair of criminal investigations and a vengeful pursuit of would-be assassins key turning points, and his son's governesses - the aforementioned Nell and her replacement, Sabrina - have key roles to play as well. Even the bit players have their scenes, with comradely banter and trash talk adding some color to the story as a whole.
Of course, this is an Alex Hawke story, so it must be said he's once again given the opportunity to shine. The stakes are higher here than they ever have been before, but he tackles it all with his customary wit, charm, and prowess. The climactic set-piece is more of a team effort, with old friends and new heading into danger alongside him, but that doesn't diminish his contributions. As you would expect, it is Alex who ultimately stands before the fate of the world, and he who fights hardest to preserve it.
A fun, fast read, Warriors proves once again that Ted Bell deserves to sit upon the same shelf as the likes of Clive Cussler, Vince Flynn, W.E.B. Griffin, and Ian Fleming. More tightly focused and to-the-point than many of his contemporaries, even with the balance involved, Bell knows how to tell a tale that hits all of the right emotional and intellectual highs.