A cancer diagnosis midway through his junior year baseball season could have derailed his dreams and aspirations – but with his faith, family, and the support of his coaches and teammates, Ryan Rossano chose instead to be relentless. This is his story.
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“Friendship is a relentless force. Family is a relentless force. Faith is a relentless force. The human spirit is relentless, and the human heart outlasts – and can defeat – even the most relentless force of all, which is time.” — Dean Koontz
If there was any doubt as to whether or not Daniel Silva is the best contemporary writer of literary thrillers, then The Black Widow should resolve the debate. The plot is intricate and multilayered, while the prose is as lyrical as a classic novel – add Silva’s grasp of the difficult terrorism related issues facing the world today and this book is a phenomenal achievement.
The story begins with a terrorist attack by ISIS on a Jewish center in Paris. It’s reminiscent of the recent terror attacks in France and Belgium. In response, Gabriel Allon and the Mossad work with the Jordanians and the French to infiltrate a network set up by the Islamic State.
The first two-thirds of the book is centered on the recruitment and training of the agent, and ultimately the operation itself. The final third of the book is non-stop, edge-of-your-seat thriller as Allon and his colleagues try to prevent an ISIS attack on American soil.
In the author’s note at the end of the book, Silva writes, “The Black Widow is a work of entertainment and should be read as nothing more.” However, he also adds that he “did my utmost to explain the roots and explosive growth of ISIS accurately and dispassionately.”
Silva is right on both accounts. You can simply read and enjoy this as a literary thriller, but you can also look to it as a primer on ISIS. It presents a clear and accurate picture of how ISIS evolved and why it is so dangerous. And finally, with his fiction, Silva offers a vivid, horrifying scenario for what could happen in the U.S. if our leaders are unwilling or unable to deal with this plague.
I think pretty much everything written by Bart Hopkins Jr. is worth reading. His style feels old school, and I mean that as a compliment – he uses language very carefully, and smartly (unlike so many thriller authors I’ve read recently who make me feel like my IQ takes a hit every time I read a few chapters), and his stories are always multilayered and thought provoking.
Influence is primarily set in Galveston, an area the author knows very well. It’s the second novel by Hopkins with Cass Destry as the protagonist. Last time around the 20-something PI put a serial killer in the ground. This time the stakes are even higher.
The first half of the book finds Cass on a seemingly innocuous case – locate a young adult female who doesn’t want her mother to know where she is. But after locating the woman in Colorado, Cass is witness to a horrific event – and then the tension and stakes begin to mount quickly.
This is a much better book than the author’s previous contributions to the series (DEAD OR ALIVE, UNDER FIRE). One difference is Jack Jr. isn’t out to save the world — he’s just trying to avoid being killed, and to do that he hunts down the men that are trying to kill him and tries to find a logical explanation for why he’s been targeted.
This allows Jack’s character to be less of a superhero caricature (as he was in the previous books) and more of a flawed good guy who is introspective and trying to find and learn from his mistakes. It makes for less action/excitement in the book, but it actually improves the overall quality of the book.
Forced to work without The Campus and its resources, Jack pulls in some new allies along the way as he crosses America, Europe and ultimately Africa in pursuit of the answers he needs to stay alive.
Another thing I really liked: I expected when the reason he’d been targeted was finally revealed that we’d flip back to superhero caricature mode and Jack would suddenly save the world in the final pages of the book. Well, I was so wrong. The reason is logical and compelling, and Jack’s response to it was even more so.
This sci-fi short story is set in a future world where books and paper have been obsolete for decades, teachers have been replaced by IFs (instructional facilitators) that remotely monitor students, smartphones are also obsolete (replaced by APDs — All Purpose Devices), interplanetary travel is common, Mars is colonized, space vacations are commonplace, and a new form of energy fuels everything.
But it’s also a future where nothing works without the internet. Everyone and everything is plugged into and dependent upon the internet 24/7. Until suddenly they’re not.
Simeon wakes up to find a strange message and an entirely different world. There’s no internet, nothing works, and the message says wait for instructions. His girlfriend Karina and roommate Mess confirm this isn’t a nightmare — it’s real, and their carefully constructed lives begin to crumble.
What’s really interesting about this story is the author’s careful and smart observations about society and the potential pitfalls to being “plugged in” 24/7. He pits his young star-crossed lovers/protagonists against a seemingly impossible situation that is vividly imagined and all too plausible.