Alpha by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alpha is a tense, suspense-filled story. Admittedly, I was bit thrown by the present tense format. I'm not a huge fan of that. I prefer past tense narrative. Otherwise, I have to say that Rucka has another success on his hands. I've been reading almost every graphic novel by his I can get my hands on, because he knows what he's doing. This is my first official prose book by him. He can write just as good without illustrations to tell the story.
I found myself feeling very sympathetic towards the sleeper agent. While he's not by any stretch a good man, I think that in another life, he could have been a better man. It's very hard to write a villain that is sympathetic, but Rucka did it well in this case. I really wish things had ended much differently for him, although he did make his choices (admittedly from a deck short of cards) in the end.
The idea of an action story set at an amusement park was well done. I have always had a distrust of, shall we say, people wearing character suits (something a bit disturbing about it, especially if they are animal characters), and now I won't look at them the same way again. I like how Rucka emphasized the frozen smiling face of the terrorists in their character suit. It's a metaphor for how a bland face can hide evil and latent menace, especially when one cannot see the eyes (the windows to the soul). The amusement park is almost a bit of a stand-in for Disneyland, but with its own mythology that plays out in a way that's decidedly creepy considering that the park is harboring blood-thirsty terrorists.
"Alpha" is more of a suspense book but it has plenty of action. I felt my stomach tense up in knots as the story progresses at a fast pace towards its climax. Jad is a likable protagonist despite having some flaws. I appreciate that while he's a skilled special forces operator who has earned his formidable reputation, he's not bulletproof or invulnerable.
I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a tightly written, well-plotted novel that straddles the fence between suspense and action. I'll definitely keep reading this series.
View all my reviews