My friends and I enjoy going to movies quite a bit. I’ve always been a big fan of them, and always made friends with people who like movies. We see them, we talk about them, we quote them incessantly to the annoyance of our girlfriends and wives.
One of the terms that we use, and I’m sure it’s not unique to us, is the term “Popcorn Movie.” A Popcorn Movie is a movie that isn’t going to change your life or have you walking out of the theater a different person. A Popcorn Movie is an enjoyable action movie. It’s high on special effects, but it’s got enough plot and dialogue that you don’t feel like you’re watching a series of explosions tied together with nothing. Popcorn Movies are good movies, and ones that are worth seeing at the theater so you take advantage of all the sound and spectacle that they carry with them.
Alex Berenson’s The Silent Man is the book equivalent of a Popcorn Movie. It’s not going to redefine a genre or change the way you think about the world, but it will take you on an enjoyable, fast-paced ride through international intrigue.
The Blurb from the Back
CIA agent John Wells thought he’d reached his limits when he nearly died while stopping a plot that could have drawn the United States and China into war. Wells is exhausted and his nights are filled with disturbing dreams, but he knows he must gather his strength. He has made many enemies, and the world won’t stay quiet for long.
Nevertheless, he is not prepared for what is about to happen. Wells and his colleague — and fiancee — Jennifer Exley are on their way to work at Langley when traffic comes to a standstill. An accident has blocked the bridge ahead. Wells begins to get a bad feeling, a feeling that gets worse when he spots the motorcycle zooming up between cars toward him. Within a few minutes, several people will be dead or severely injured. Exley among them, and Wells will be a man possessed.
Wells believes he knows who is behind the attack. He wants revenge for himself, despite the pleas of his bosses at the CIA, and even of Exley, that he wait. But as he tracks his adversaries to Russia, and then Europe, he will find much more than he expects. An Islamic terrorist plan of unimaginable consequences is in motion. As he tries to stop it, Wells will have to decide how much his honor is worth — and whether he can face losing the woman he loves.
Bad Guys and Good Guys
As I said in the introduction, The Silent Man is the book equivalent of a summer blockbuster. I don’t know that there’s really anything new in the story, which mainly comes down to stopping a terrorist plan to set off a nuclear device within the United States. It does carry you through that story, though, and at a pretty quick pace.
The moments of suspense are scattered throughout, though occasionally they come to a very quick end via the brash, off-the-cuff actions of the main character. He’s not what you would call a cerebral agent, he’s more the beat people up, ask questions after (if you can) kind of agent.
This does present one of the aspects of the book that I didn’t really like. It’s not just this book that has done it, but it’s a trend I’m noticing in quite a few books like it. It essentially comes down to the fact that the characters of the “Bad Guys” were actually more sympathetic than the character of the “Good Guy.”
Early on in the book, part of the action follows the bad guys as they attempt to steal the nuclear device from it’s storage facility in Russia. It’s a delicate balancing act at this point, because it was done in a way where you were really rooting for the guys to actually get away with it. It’s a strange feeling, because I really shouldn’t be hoping for that.
That comes through in other parts of the novel as well, especially since the character of Wells is very brash and almost irresponsible in regards to the people around him. So not only did I find myself sympathizing with the bad guys, I found myself not really liking the good guy. As I say, it’s a balancing act, because you need to set up suspense on both sides of the fence, but in a book such as this, the lines almost need to be more defined between good and bad.
With that said, in the end, The Silent Man delivers an enjoyable experience and doesn’t try to be what it’s not. Just make sure to have your popcorn handy.
Who would like this book: Any fans of the spy thriller genre, or those looking for a good adventure story.
Who would not like this book: People who don’t like “Popcorn Movies.”
Note: This book was sent to me as a review copy. While I try not to let this alter my review, I feel that it is only fair, in the interest of full disclosure, to let you know.