Book Review: The Terminal List by Jack Carr
A story about a Navy SEAL who goes rogue when betrayed by the establishment, this is written by a former Navy SEAL who definitely knows his technical stuff and the world about which he’s writing. However, it would be a much better story if he’d managed to keep his political opinions out of it. Considering the systematic rorting of the system by the Republicans currently in power, portraying Democrats as the villains in this particular story is laughable. Especially considering the journalist helping out the hero and the way the politicians attempted to decry her as ‘fake news’, a move right out of the Republican handbook.
There are some interesting concepts here which didn’t get explored in depth; when James Reece discovers he and his unit received an experimental drug designed to prevent development of PTSD, he doesn’t for one moment stop to think that maybe it’s affected his mental state. Maybe he should be reacting more with grief for his murdered family and friends and less with all-out, unemotional focus on revenge. And not one of the trusted friends who help him out, who he tells about the drug, ask him about it either.
The author’s attempts to make his hero an Everyman fall down too, for example when his one Mexican friend turns out to be less respectable businessman and more kingpin with his fingers in a lot of pies. Every named character in the story who’s not a white American turns out to be either a criminal, a terrorist or both. Torture is glorified, when Reece is described as having learned how to waterboard an opponent “just after 9/11, when Americans still had the will to win”. (I added YIKES as a note in the Kindle file about that).
Money, especially in the quantities at stake here, is a great motivator. I can absolutely buy the motivations of the villains here. The plot actually makes a reasonable amount of sense, and all this really needed to actually be good was an editor willing to clean up the political nonsense, get the author to tone down the technical weaponry talk (yes, I’m sure serving and former members of the military would notice the accuracy, but neither they nor your average layperson would really care what type of knife Reece used to gut someone or which brand of ammunition he’s loading his gun with) and actually get the author to explore the emotional fallout of such a crusade.
Military thrillers need to be apolitical, as the military itself is supposed to be. If the author is able to figure that out and find an editor who can pick out and help him remove his unconscious bias from his writing, he might be able to come up with a readable book. This, sadly, isn’t it. One star.
The Terminal List is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.